This is less about my own personal story than about the stories of the people depicted in my plays. As my play, La Ruta, produced by the Working Theater, heads to Queens, NYC, I can’t help but think how blessed I am as a theater artist to have such a challenging production brought to life. I give it up to the Working Theater for having the courage and insight to produce this play, which is a site-specific piece about immigrants making the journey north in the back of a tractor trailer. The journey toward production was not easy for me or the Working Theater. But we made it.
That said, there are many immigrants who will never be able to utter those words, “We made it.” They are left behind in the desert as they succumb to the heat or the cold, have fallen from the train headed north, or worse yet, have been caught up in the drug war just south of the U.S.-Mexican Border. In 2012, there were 477 immigrant deaths at the border according to NAFP.com, the second highest total since 1998. And the most jarring fact is that the number rose despite fewer people attempting to cross. La Ruta, and much of my other work, tries to tell their stories—to put human faces on these numbing statistics. I wish the Senate’s Gang of Eight, which continues to sell its so-called comprehensive immigration reform, could see these faces and hear their voices. I hope it would push them toward more practical reform—reform that would cut down on the deaths of those dreaming for a better life. Reform that would give those already here a sincere path to legal status or citizenship. Because once again the bill is looking to be more about the politicians drafting it—and their posturing–than the immigrants and the nation it would affect. Let’s make the legislation smart and humane. As a start, get rid of the security triggers which would delay, for example, the Temporary Worker Programs. These triggers smell more like trump cards to renege on the full implementation of such programs in the future, on the slightest unreached security goal. And let’s acknowledge that the back taxes/fines these immigrants would be forced to pay would only set them back as indebted servants. The immigrants most affected by these fees/fines would be the working class/working poor, which are the majority of the immigrants in this country. This bill should not be seen as a way to make money or to punish, but as acceptance of our current reality. // Ed Cardona, Jr.
ED CARDONA, JR. is the author of LA RUTA, which the New York Times called “compelling” and “urgent.” His last play AMERICAN JORNALERO was selected as a finalist by the 2011 Metlife Nuestras Voces National Playwriting Competition. He received his M.F.A. in playwriting from Columbia University.