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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The Trump Presidency Is Over

Say hello to President Mike Pence.

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Remember this date: August 21, 2018.

This was the day that two of President Donald Trump's most-important associates were convicted on eight counts each, and one directly implicated the president himself.

Paul Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, but the charges brought against him don't necessarily implicate Trump. However, they are incredibly important considering was is one of the most influential people in the Trump campaign and picked Mike Pence to be the vice presidential candidate.

Manafort was convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to file a report of a foreign bank account. And it could have been even worse. The jury was only unanimous on eight counts while 10 counts were declared a mistrial.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. Those two women are believed to be Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornstar. Trump had an affair with both while married to his current wife, Melania.

And then to no surprise, Fox News pundits spun this in the only way they know how. Sara Carter on Hannity said that the FBI and the Department of Justice are colluding as if it's some sort of deep-state conspiracy. Does someone want to tell her that the FBI is literally a part of the DOJ?

The Republican Party has for too long let Trump get away with criminal behavior, and it's long past time to, at the very least, remove Mr. Trump from office.

And then Trump should face the consequences for the crimes he has committed. Yes, Democrats have a role, too. But Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress, so they head every committee. They have the power to subpoena Trump's tax returns, which they have not. They have the power to subpoena key witnesses in their Russia investigations, which they have not.

For the better part of a year I have been asking myself what is the breaking point with Republicans and Trump. It does not seem like there is one, so for the time being we're stuck with a president who paid off two women he had an affair with in an attempt to influence a United States election.

Imagine for a second that any past president had done even a fraction of what Trump has.

Barack Obama got eviscerated for wearing a tan suit. If he had affairs with multiple women, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be preparing to burn him at the stake. If they won't, then Trump's enthusiastic would be more than happy to do so.

For too long we've been saying that Trump is heading down a road similar to Nixon, but it's evident now that we're way past that point. Donald Trump now has incriminating evidence against him to prove he's a criminal, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just getting started.

Will Trump soften the blow and resign in disgrace before impeachment like Nixon did? Knowing his fragile ego, there's honestly no telling what he'll do. But it's high time Trump leaves an office he never should have entered in the first place.

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Beto O'Rourke Is The Future For The Democratic Party

Democrats need a new voice, and now they have him.

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As a self-professed progressive, the 2016 presidential election was one of the darkest days of my life. Every day I wish that the election had turned out differently. But if there's a silver lining, the Democratic Party has almost completely reinvented itself and has a chance to move forward.

Barack Obama was an amazing leader for the party for a decade. Hillary Clinton was arguably the most-flawed candidate the modern-day Democratic Party has ever nominated, and she lost to the most-flawed Republican ever nominated. So now the Democrats need someone to look up to and lead the way past the regressive presidency of Donald Trump. That man is Beto O'Rourke.

O'Rourke is a representative of Texas's 16th congressional district, which covers the city of El Paso. But right now people in the political world know him as the guy who is running against arguably the most-hated man in the Senate, Ted Cruz. Former House Speaker and fellow Republican John Boehner once said that Cruz is "Lucifer in the flesh."

Cruz prides himself in being hated by Washington politicians, but hatred from his current colleagues could come back to bite him. "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you," said Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina.

If O'Rourke wins in November, he'll take down Cruz, who is one of the most powerful and influential Republicans in Washington despite being hated. And it could launch Beto to even higher office someday.

Even if he loses to Cruz, Beto has an extremely bright future ahead of him because he's just what the Democratic Party needs right now. He's young, passionate, communicates extremely well and is a perfect representation of what the face of the party should be.

This year, O'Rourke has been setting an example of how Democrats should run their campaigns. Beto has traveled to every single one of Texas's 254 counties. Ever since the Supreme Court's decision on Citizens United v. FEC (2010), Democrats have pushed for campaign finance reform, and O'Rourke is leading by example with his campaign. Beto has taken $0 from Political Action Committees (PACs). All of his money comes from individual donors. Cruz has taken PAC money, but O'Rourke still holds a significant advantage in fundraising.

O'Rourke in his campaign emphasizes that Texas has among the highest immigration populations in the United States, but the senators from Texas, Cruz and John Cornyn, do not accurately represent the diversity of the state. O'Rourke has separated himself from Cruz by speaking out against the proposed border wall and the separation of immigrant children at the border.

I'm not from Texas, but I'm just as excited for this senate race as I was when Doug Jones won in my home state almost a year ago. Beto O'Rourke has an opportunity to make positive change in our country and actually bring people together. If he doesn't win in November, Beto should make plans for 2020 because he can become the face of the Democratic Party.

If you'd like to learn more about, join, or donate to the campaign, here is a link.

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