Ever since I was a child, my mother told me to be accepting of all human qualities except cruelty and greed. I still follow her advice today. When I came across the New York Times article released on Monday about the two sex traffickers who brought women from Mexico and forced them to prostitute themselves here, I realized the universality of those two characteristics.
How does it come to the point where people want to be out of their own homelands so bad that they agree to do anything to be in America–land of the free? Soon after they arrive, some immigrants find out that they are not free; they are manipulated, blackmailed, abused and terrified of dying. They remain faceless.
More than half of my life, I have grown up as an immigrant outside of my home country. My mother’s job and my father’s enthusiasm to let me explore other cultures alongside my own contributed largely to my constant location-hopping from country to country. Take my journey to New York for college as an example. The reason I decided to come here was because of the stark difference between the city of my dreams and a strict boarding school I graduated from.
I was anticipating having all the freedom I could think of; I could stay up long after 10 pm, eat delicious food, wear shorts outside without being judged, meet “hipster” boys, and express myself however I pleased. Once I arrived here, however, I realized that there was something holding me back. I did not have the same rights as my fellow Americans. I was here with a student visa, meaning that I couldn’t work to sustain myself, along with other setbacks. Obtaining student aid was difficult, and having to ask my parents for money so often made me feel guilty. I started noticing how I was assumed to be Indian by many Americans although I am not; a handful of times was greeted with a Namaste, and asked if I lived in Jackson Heights. These little (unintentionally) ignorant statements made me feel like I had no identity and no distinctive features. I was faceless.
I know my experience in New York is not even close to the torture that these women from Mexico underwent. I can say, however that immigrants like me are extremely vulnerable to facing similar circumstances. I have a friend who seriously considered being an escort to be able to pay for her rent. I have met so many international students who say that they will get married to someone just to gain citizenship and be able to work. We have very few options to earn money; hence some of us think selling ourselves to a very demanding industry is the easiest way out. Little do they now that there are greedy and cruel people out there who will seize such opportunities to enslave and agonize them. They are not human beings to many Americans. We are faceless.