Jose Angel N. on undocumented immigrants and negative growth

n.Today at The Point, José Ángel N. contributes an essay drawing on his experiences as an undocumented immigrant to ponder American progress, the idea of home, and today’s fraught immigration atmosphere.

When I am invited to share my experience as an undocumented man with different communities, I often find myself puzzled by the misconceptions I encounter. An older gentleman stands up and demands one goddamn good reason not to call the police on me at that very moment. But then we would not be able to have a discussion, I answer.

I am aware of the conversation’s significance. That brief exchange alone is already of great value—just by engaging in it, we are both carrying on in the tradition of the town-hall meeting, which Tocqueville observed to be one of the pillars of the American democratic experience. It is clear that we come with different agendas—the man is determined to uphold the rule of law; I am forced to defend my humanity. In the end, our conversation veers toward the subject of the economy. He insists that people like me drive down wages for American workers; I tell him we make it possible for Americans to live comfortably and affordably. As a retiree, I add, he should be an ally of the undocumented, the Social Security Administration having retained $100 billion in taxes from our paychecks during the last decade alone. He remains skeptical—his version of America does not allow for an outlaw funding his retirement.

The entire essay is here.