Visiting Undocumented New York

Visiting Undocumented New York

How much of the American dream is a dream?
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New York, ever since its establishment, has been a city of migrants: its character, a well-rounded one with a flush of black, brown and white on its skin. Indeed, in its truest form, New York is a concrete jungle that breathes in the toxins produced by automobiles driven by ‘underdogs.’

In its romantic form, which often overpowers the real one, it is the one hurdle you might never want to cross. There is always the sense that there is a better way of living, a better lifestyle, and a cleaner and safer neighborhood. But there is also a pleasure in the struggle in a sense that assures you that you would rather be homeless in New York than be confined in the precincts of any walled apartment, anywhere else in the world. It is the embodiment of an everlasting greed, a thirst for money and power, a pull so strong it resembles that of the seductive mistress whose plump lips have kept you from kissing your other, beautiful half for long.

No one seems to understand the invisible force that draws one to New York, yet New York becomes the one city everyone desires to breathe in. It isn’t just another Paris, just another London. For some even dare say that it isn’t even a city; it is a world in itself, crammed in 1 BHKs and rat-filled subways.A homeless man had once said to me, “You live everywhere else in the world but you survive in New York.” And that is the one common binding force that unifies all of New York- Upper East Side to the Bronx- the survival, the instinct that you can make it big today but lose it all tomorrow. Survival is key for most immigrants like me: those who have to power to make or erase the fantasy called New York.

The Undocumented New York

Although the chunks of white on his moustache and beard gave it away, Maged usually sported a baseball cap, more than anything; it gave him a chance to escape the embarrassment that comes accompanying old age.

When I first met Maged, he was working as a cashier at the Tomatina Café on 31st Street and 9th avenue (address changed for security reasons), energized and awaiting customers who were willing to have a conversation even if it was way past midnight. Learning that we were Indians, he had asked my friends and me if we planned to return to our country after graduating from college, “Why not?" I said, "maybe after a few years of working in New York.”

“You are young. You might say now that you wanna go back but by the time you come to your senior year, you gonna say no. Everyone wants to stay in New York and live the American dream. I know because I have seen so many do that. You must not fall for it; it’s a trap,” he said. What he hadn’t mentioned then, and what I had come to understand after continuously visiting him for several months, was that he was guilty of the same blissful entrapment.

Maged had come to New York on a student visa in 2003 after being accepted at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Thousands of miles away, ashes of religious wars covered his hometown Egypt. Terror attacks on tourists had deprived him of his only successful job as a tour guide. His small ears were constantly bombarded with questions about the failure of government control, of Islamic officials, of the religion itself.

The only answer an eighteen-year-old Maged had at that time conveyed the idea of escape. And so he did. Like most of the other Coptic Christians, like most of the people in the world, Maged’s idea of escape landed him in the States, in New York.

14 years after that day, Maged is an undocumented immigrant filing papers that would help him seek religious asylum. There is a chance that he could get persecuted in Egypt but there is also a risk of him being used, abducted or killed in the States, if and only if he decides to remain here undocumented.

For Maged, his New York is his East Harlem apartment, which he shares with two others, where he retires to smoke Hookah every morning after his night shift at Epice. For Maged, New York translates into escape, into safety, and into his favorite topic of conversation.

The Mexican’s New York

Undocumented immigrants have seen the darkest spaces in Manhattan: your favorite Bangladeshi Halal cart guy who serves the best lamb over rice, the Uber driver you forgot to wish goodnight, the delivery boy from the nearest Chinese restaurant whose calls you missed seven times and who waited at your door for another 15 minutes without demanding an explanation of why you didn’t tip. And then there is Jose.

I had met Jose through Maged. He swept the floor while constantly checking on us to see if he could understand any English word. Jose is 17 and uses the translator on his phone to converse with Maged. Jose was smuggled into the States through the Mexican border, all after he paid approximately $15,000.

Jose earns about $450 a week and sends most of the money to clear off his debts. He dreams of sending his younger siblings to a school in the States but does not know the process.

For Jose, New York is from where his neighbors’ kid in Mexico earned money, it is the reason the neighbors have big houses, the reason why their younger kids attend a better school. It is the place where he can buy a cell phone, a computer and a video game. For him, New York is the only place where he is welcomed without judgments, the place that took him 49 days to reach (after he crossed the border), where he is now going to purchase his first Xbox, a place where his journey just begun.

Indeed, New York is an exciting journey: a thrill. In short, New York is a mystery, of skyscrapers and the homeless shelters, of the Empire State building and the Tenement Museum. You can never have enough of it.

It is a topic every writer, ever journalist has either once covered or certainly wants to cover before she finally drops her pen. And no matter how much you read about New York, or write about it, you can never grow weary of it. No two writings on New York can ever be the same just like your New York can never be the same as mine, or as any other New Yorker’s.

Cover Image Credit: Sushi Roy

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Politicians Are Lying Succubi, So I Vote How My Brother Does

I might as well let him use his voice.
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I hate politics.

Every politician is a lying succubus who will say anything that they need to in order to get ahead. The two parties that are used, Republican and Democrat, don't cover all of the ideas and beliefs held by the people.

Because of this, it is difficult to choose a party when you are registering to vote.

If someone were to choose to register as one of the lesser known parties they would be unable to vote in the Primary because their party isn't represented, which means that they have no say in who gets into the election.

That is a problem because not all of the people have a say.

My problem is that I know all of this so I am trying to choose a side, left or right. But I can't because I hold beliefs found on both sides. This is one reason that I, a 19-year-old, am not registered to vote. What is the point if I can't choose a side to align myself with?

My 16-year-old brother has very strict political beliefs, he finds it easy to navigate politics. Although to be fair I am more often than not found with my head in the clouds.

Because of this and the fact that I couldn't care less about politics, I will have my brother tell me who he wants to vote for and put my vote towards his candidate. At least I will be allowing someone who has made an informed decision the ability to vote, even though he isn't of age to do it for himself.

It seems like the best choice at this time because where I am at right now I have absolutely no desire to mix myself up into the world of politics and my brother is already there.

I might as well let him use his voice.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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