Our breaths are shallow. My mom struggle to breathe as we sat at the hospital and the staff person asked if her ID information was up to date. I was born in that hospital 22 years before, when my mom gave a falsified social security number as she was going through contractions. The contractions that felt like too much to bear but weren’t enough to distract her from her undocumented status. Twenty-two years later, prepping for a surgery to remove her thyroid, she’s documented now, but the moment she realized she would have to tell the staff person she has a new social security number because the one on record was fake, my mom’s breathe was shallow. The protections her documented status offered for so long disappeared instantly and she was undocumented once more. About to go in for surgery and the state has her worrying about social security numbers, because those numbers matter more to the state than our lives.
Now I struggle to breathe, too. The pesticides and smog are so common in the Central Valley that so many don’t make the connections between the highest asthma rates in the state and the pesticides that surround us. Because the state doesn’t care about the health of immigrant families in the Central Valley as long as we keep producing the food that feeds the country. Who cares if we can breathe as long as my mom keeps cleaning those almendras on the assembly line, and my dad keeps cleaning those machines at Foster Farms, and as long as I meet my sales goals at Macy’s while going to school full-time so I can give my parents what they always wanted for me.
So new we continue to struggle to breathe, but now I have a space, a modality of existence, that shows me that the struggle to breathe is just the first step on our collective path to reproductive justice.