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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6 Things You Should Know About The Woman Who Can't Stand Modern Feminism

Yes, she wants to be heard too.

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2018 is sort of a trap for this woman. She believes in women with all of the fire inside of her, but it is hard for her to offer support when people are making fools of themselves and disguising it as feminism.

The fact of the matter is that women possess qualities that men don't and men possess qualities that women don't. That is natural. Plus, no one sees men parading the streets in penis costumes complaining that they don't get to carry their own fetus for nine months.

1. She really loves and values women.

She is incredibly proud to be a woman.

She knows the amount of power than a woman's presence alone can hold. She sees when a woman walks into a room and makes the whole place light up. She begs that you won't make her feel like a "lady hater" because she doesn't want to follow a trend that she doesn't agree with.

2. She wants equality, too

She has seen the fundamental issues in the corporate world, where women and men are not receiving equal pay.

She doesn't cheer on the businesses that don't see women and men as equivalents. But she does recognize that if she works her butt off, she can be as successful as she wants to.

3. She wears a bra.

While she knows the "I don't have to wear a bra for society" trend isn't a new one, but she doesn't quite get it. Like maybe she wants to wear a bra because it makes her feel better. Maybe she wears a bra because it is the normal things to do... And that's OK.

Maybe she wants to put wear a lacy bra and pretty makeup to feel girly on .a date night. She is confused by the women who claim to be "fighting for women," because sometimes they make her feel bad for expressing her ladyhood in a different way than them.

4. She hates creeps just as much as you do. .

Just because she isn't a feminist does not mean that she is cool with the gruesome reality that 1 in 5 women are sexually abused.

In fact, this makes her stomach turn inside out to think about. She knows and loves people who have been through such a tragedy and wants to put the terrible, creepy, sexually charged criminals behind bars just as bad as the next woman.

Remember that just because she isn't a feminist doesn't mean she thinks awful men can do whatever they want.

5. There is a reason she is ashamed of 2018's version of feminism.

She looks at women in history who have made a difference and is miserably blown away by modern feminism's performance.

Not only have women in the past won themselves the right to vote, but also the right to buy birth control and have credit cards in their names and EVEN saw marital rape become a criminal offense.

None of them dressed in vagina costumes to win anyone over though... Crazy, right?

6. She isn't going to dress in a lady parts costume to prove a point.

This leaves her speechless. It is like the women around her have absolutely lost their minds and their agendas, only lessening their own credibility.

"Mom, what are those ladies on TV dressed up as?"

"Ummm... it looks to me like they are pink taco's honey."

She loves who she is and she cherished what makes her different from the men around her. She doesn't want to compromise who she is as a woman just so she can be "equal with men."

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After An Already Unpredictable Year, Fall 2018 Has Farmers Wishing They Weren't In Kansas Anymore

Most farmers know to expect the unexpected, but how long do they have to withstand getting knocked off their feet?

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After a long winter, unusual spring rainfall patterns and summer drought, farmers knew that their incomes in 2018 would be affected. The USDA even expected the farm sector net farm income in 2018 to decline $9.8 billion (13 percent) from 2017. Worse yet, the USDA predicted that "total production expenses, including operator dwellings, are forecast to increase $11.8 billion."

How is a farmer supposed to break even when production expenses increase, and their incomes decrease?

Farmers feed the world. But what happens when farmers can't feed their livestock or afford to plant crops? This is a question that all too many farmers, not just in Kansas, are having to ask themselves.

Unpredictable weather conditions increase how difficult it is for farmers to survive.

From December 25th, 2017 to January 8th, 2018 temperatures dropped to more than 25 degrees below normal in some areas. This can be devastating for livestock producers.

Colder temperatures mean that chores require added effort since water sources must be thawed. Even worse, imagine walking outside to see that a cow had her calf only for the calf to catch pneumonia or freeze to death.

Most farmers know to expect the unexpected, but how long do they have to withstand getting knocked off their feet?

After a dry, harsh winter, farmers faced unusual spring rainfall patterns. Farmers knew that if they didn't get rain in spring, the drought from 2017 would get worse in 2018. Unfortunately, what the farmers knew became true.

In July 2018, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer updated the Drought Declaration for Kansas counties. This update had 50 counties in emergency status, 27 in warning status and 28 in watch status.

All 105 counties in Kansas were in drought or abnormally dry.

This led to livestock water and feed shortages, struggling crops and overall anxiety about how farmers would survive. Unfortunately, farmers should have been careful with what they wished for during this time.

Heavy rain hit parts of Kansas in September and caused flooding. Flooding that would kill crops and slow production since farmers couldn't walk in their fields without getting stuck, let alone replant crops using heavy machinery.

What farmers didn't know is that "fall" would continue to make things worse.

Fall, if you can even call it that, has seemed more like winter for Kansas farmers. Kansans were hit with unusually early snow October 15th that broke a record set 120 years ago for Kansas City.

Fall crops like soybeans were looking hopeful for farmers until unusual weather conditions led to harvest delays. To make things even worse, pod shattering can occur before soybeans are even harvested when there's alternation of dry and wet periods.

Since farmers haven't been able to harvest soybeans as anticipated, they haven't been able to plant some of their wheat as hoped.

The USDA sets final planting dates which are the dates when crops must be initially planted to be insured for the full production guarantee or amount of insurance per acre. Crops planted after these dates are in the "late planting period" and are ineligible for full insurance protection.

This means that farmers are losing money every day that they are unable to get into the fields. Consequently, many farmers are wondering what their next move should be. But one thing is certain.

After an already unpredictable year, fall 2018 has farmers wishing they weren't in Kansas anymore.

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