If there is a difficult subject to talk about, it's immigration. In some ways it reminds me of the subject of homelessness.
Before I started working for a homeless women's and children's shelter, homeless people to me were those people on the outskirts of downtown, or those taking a shower very early in the public showers on the beach. In my mind I labeled them as unfortunate people, people who for various reasons were not able to participate in the system like we all do. Many of them have mental health issues, therefore they were unattached to responsibilities, and unable to fulfill their duties as civilians.
After a little bit of exposure to their struggles through working with the homeless, and being open to learn about what they go through, I understand that yes, many homeless people have mental health issues and become isolated on the outskirts of the city, and walking along the beach where other people get alarmed by their presence — but do you know that many of them actually develop mental health issues due to being homeless?
Do you know that many of them are not immigrants but actually born and raised in the U.S.?
Do you know that many of them, in particular women, became homeless while trying to escape domestic violence and other traumatic situations?
Do you know many of them have children, even newborns, and they keep their jobs while sleeping in their cars?
Do you know that many of them have backgrounds working in the corporate world?
Do you know many of them have degrees and high levels of education?
Do you know that many of them, given the right support, go back into the workforce and and then become the support for others in the same situation, and they actually create a better system?
Do you know that some of them speak many languages and have traveled the world?
Do you know that many of them simply had bad cards dealt to them in life and the same could happen to you or me?
The reason why this reminds me of immigration is because people make a lot of assumptions about immigrants: they don’t deserve to be in this country, they are the lower spectrum of society, they are criminals, they are uneducated, they are a burden that will weaken our society and our economy, they are something to fear.
I was an illegal immigrant once. I kept a low profile and stayed out of trouble while studying in this country. I became a yoga teacher, and a massage therapist. I worked hard because I knew I didn’t want to be back in my old country, because home no longer felt like home, and because I thought I had something to offer here. I am fortunate that in my career I was able to travel and work with people of higher ranks, such as immigration officers, judges, CEOs, celebrities, Grammy winners, MTV Awards winners, and on and on.
You know what I learned?
Those who had judgements against immigrants didn't know who they were talking to. In fact, many times while I was working on them or with them — whether yoga, massage, or simply conversation — they shared their views about how illegal immigrants should go back home and I bit my tongue because I had been there once and now they were paying me a good amount of money to help them relax, stretch, sleep, or simply feel better with themselves.
Like homelessness, each of us has our views, and I am not a politician who makes laws, but as someone who has been on both sides and who tries to do good and to help others I can tell you that the laws of immigration are not welcoming to those who want to come to the U.S. in a legal way.
We are no longer a country that welcomes people with open arms.
I'm not on a mission to change people’s minds about immigration or homelessness. I have no time to waste arguing. But I have my voice, my experience, and my point of view.
I won’t be quiet out of fear. And I won’t judge because of appearances.
I won’t act based on a false sense of privilege.
I won’t view other human beings through a false sense of superiority.
I have a newfound sense of compassion for those who are in the streets, at the borders, or in hiding at this moment out of fear of retaliation and being sent back to places that no longer feel like home. But I also have newfound sense of compassion for those who are drunk on the illusion of superiority and righteousness stemming from their own privilege.
Adrian Molina has been teaching yoga continuously since 2004. He is a well-known and respected instructor in Miami and New York, with an extensive worldwide following through his platform and school of yoga, Warrior Flow. Adrian teaches online for Omstars and works for the non-profit women's shelter Lotus House. Adrian is also a writer, massage therapist, Reiki healer, meditation teacher, sound therapist, and a Kriya yoga practitioner in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda. Adrian is recognized for the community-building work he does in Miami and beyond.