Stonecatcher Project: Immigration in America: Fraught History, Fractured Present, Promising Future


My Mane Lilia, my grandmother, now in her eighties, came to the U.S. as a student—in a time when immigration from her home city of Matamoros in Northern Tamaulipas to Texas was far different. She came long before the heightened anti-Mexican racism of post-industrial America, when beleaguered and unemployed blue-collar workers began seeking new scapegoats for the nation’s economic woes, and politicians readily fanned the flames of their discontent. 

She came before 9/11 and a century-defining program of “us versus them” xenophobia theatrics. Before we took to piling barbed-wire fences ever-higher on the borderline, obsessively retracing cultural, political, and physical boundaries in the name of “homeland security.” My abuela became an American before we extinguished the light beside Liberty’s Golden Door and bid farewell to the world. 

During Thanksgiving of last year, she and I discussed my latest Keynote article, a comparison between Presidents Joe Biden and Jimmy Carter—and not a terribly positive one at that. I asked her what she thought of the President’s performance. 

“No,” responded my abuela without a moment of hesitation. I was taken aback. 

Most moderates and progressive to whom I’ve presented the very same query descend into awkward verbal deliberation—spoken-word poetry of pros and cons—often without a decisive verdict. Well, Biden’s done his best. And COVID died down for a little bit. That’s got to be worth something, right? He does seem old, though. And Afghanistan? 

Indeed, judging the performance of a president in such an unwieldy social, epidemiological, geopolitical climate is no easy task. For my grandmother, though, a life-long liberal who in-turn supported both Carter and Biden, words of earnest contempt flowed with an ease uncommon of dithering columnists and explosive television pundits. 

“What else can I say but no?”

Such a forceful rejection of our embattled president’s conduct left me impassioned—not by her willingness to rescind once fervent approval, but rather by the reasoning she outlined to justify newfound criticism: immigration inaction. 

“How can I support a president who hasn’t followed through on his promise?”

Continue reading about immigration in America here.