Hi, I`m an immigrant

Hey there, my name is Susan, and a lot of people hate me. They are very concerned with my impact on their country`s economy, and that I might be abusing the system. They believe I should be sent back to my country of origin and only come back if I have the skills they need. I`m an immigrant on benefits in the UK.

Let me clarify something, though: I do work. I just don’t make enough money to support my family, and I’m a single mother, so I get help from the government. I’m very grateful I am having the opportunity to live in a house that’s big enough for me and my family, that I don’t struggle to buy food, that my son can go to childcare while I work, that I get to spend time with him, too. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I need benefits and I’m working my way out of it so I won’t need help in the future. However, being in this situation was out of my control, so I’m glad I had this option. Others aren’t so happy about it.

According to a 2013 survey, more than half the British population believes that the cost of having immigrants outweigh the benefits. A lot of people are concerned about the “benefit tourists” and immigration is perceived as one of the most important issues the UK faces. This is one of the main reasons Brexit is happening, so this perception is causing major changes in the UK policy and may have a huge impact in its economy and politics.

Don’t get me wrong, I have never been mistreated and nobody has ever been rude to me or told me I should leave. In fact, when I catch people making negative comments on immigration and I remind them I’m an immigrant myself, I often hear: “But I don’t see you as an immigrant”, or “You’re not the problem”. The problematic immigrant is not usually the one close to you, it’s this distant image of an ill-intentioned, strange looking guy, speaking another language and taking advantage of anything he can. I don’t look like that guy. Personally, I don’t know anyone who looks like that guy. Most people don’t.

The Migration Observatory points out that “In something of a paradox, while vast majorities view migration as harmful to Britain, few claim that their own neighbourhood is having problems due to migrants”. Surveys show that a minority of the British population think the nearby migrants are the problem. In fact, the most contact people have with immigrants, the more positive is their view of them. It might seem a lot when we say that, in 2013, more than half of Britain believed there were too many immigrants in the country; but in 1970, about 90% of people had this view. The number of people who have this negative view of immigrants have been steadily decreasing since then, as the presence of foreigners increases.

There has been a spark in migrations to the UK since 2013, with a rapid increase of people arriving from a variety of countries. How did that affect the public impressions of foreigners? Positively! Though most people still believe immigrants have a negative impact on the economy and cultural life in Britain, this is slowly changing:

Similarly, in the US, the voters who most supported Trump, who based his campaign largely on the “immigration problem”, were the least likely to have contact with immigrants: the people living in small towns. Most of the big cities and areas with a multicultural environment, had less people vote for Trump, according to the exit polls (red is votes for Trump and blue is votes for Hillary):

It seems that, getting to know immigrants may actually change your view of them (really!). When you get to know them, you might realise they are not very different from you at all. Maybe the reasons why they came to the UK are actually something you’d do, if you were in their position. The UK is actually one of the countries where most nationals emigrate, with 8% of its citizens living in another country.

 

Why do people come to the UK?

Most people come here to work. The second favourite reason is to study and the third is to join someone, like a spouse. Moving countries is not easy and I had different reasons to do so. I think nobody moves to a different place for one reason only. I had to make huge sacrifices to be able to move here and it wasn’t a decision taken lightly.

I was married to an Englishman and we lived in Brazil for 5 years. He started missing home and his family a lot, so we decided to make plans for a move to the UK. That was 2014, I was in my last year in University and didn’t want to rush out of the country. My graduation research was going to be published into a book and I wanted to take care of all that before I left.

A couple of things changed our plans completely, they happened sort of at the same time. Brazil was entering a political and economic crisis, a lot of companies downsized, including the one my husband worked for and he was one of the many employees who were laid off. I then discovered I was pregnant. We lost our health insurance and were both working as freelance teachers, so there were a lot of uncertainties in our minds. We decided it would be best to move to the UK earlier than we had planned.

It wasn’t easy. We saved money, sold furniture and electronics, our car, gave lots of stuff away. Because the currency suffered a huge drop with the political crisis, our money wasn’t much when we arrived in the UK. We weren’t entitled to benefits (it’s not as easy as you think) so my husband had to find a job quickly. I wasn’t there for my book launch, I couldn’t attend any of the events I was invited to lecture at, I made huge sacrifices in my career.

Why did I do all that? For my son. It was important to me that he would have access to healthcare, to a good education, that he would be safe and that I’d be around to raise him instead of working ten hours a day like I was doing in Brazil. The UK is an attractive destination for migrants because it offers these basic human rights to everyone. In most parts of the world, basic human rights are a luxury.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Brazil and I miss it a lot. I often think about going back. I miss the social life, the weather and the friendly, happy people. But then I remember the stress and my son doesn’t deserve it. No one deserves it, but most don’t have a choice.

What do I mean about stress? Well, I noticed how stressed I was when I travelled to California in February, 2014. The day I arrived, a friend picked me up from the airport and parked outside a restaurant to pick up a takeaway and told me to wait in the car. As I waited, I didn’t relax. I kept looking to the review mirrors looking for a person or a motorcycle approaching the car. I was afraid of being robbed or kidnapped; it took me a few minutes to realise I was being silly, it wasn’t going to happen there. I was in California for a few weeks and the feeling of being able to relax a little for the first time in years is hard to describe.

I used to drive to work in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil and there was a lot of traffic. While I was stuck in traffic, it was common to see a motorcyclist stop next to a car, take a gun out and ask the driver for money and valuables. There’s no escape, I was just sitting in my car wondering when it was going to be me. I would hide my bag under my seat and keep a fake wallet and phone near me, ready to give to the next criminal to approach me. It’s a risky move. If they realise you tricked them you might get shot. Luckily, though I’ve been physically attacked by muggers before, none of them had a gun. In fact, I was only held at gun point by police. What had I done wrong? Nothing. Where there’s a lot of violence and crime, the police tend to be more aggressive, too. It’s a snow ball.

Brazil has a high murder rate, worse than Iraq. A woman is raped in Brazil every 11 minutes. It has one of the worst wealth distribution. The government recently signed a decision to cut all investments in health and education for the next 20 years. I don’t want this for my son. If you are a parent, we probably have that in common.

Nowadays, I still sometimes hold my breath when I hear a motorcycle. When a stranger is walking towards me, I look at their hands, to see if they’re reaching for a gun or a knife. It’s only for a second, then I remember I’m not in Brazil and I relax. I can only begin to imagine what it’s like for a Syrian refugee when they have crossed the border and they hear an airplane. Imagine this: what does it feel like to feel panic, then realise it’s just a plane, not a Russian bomber? That’s an exercise we all need to do before we say no to refugees. Ask ourselves this kind of questions. What does it feel like when your one-year-old hears an airplane noise and says “bomb” before he’s even learned to say “dog”. What does it feel like for a ten-year-old refugee in Europe who doesn’t want to go to school because his school got bombed back in Syria and he saw his friends die?

I’m not saying all immigrants are good, all I’m saying is: get to know them. The odds are it’ll change your view on immigration.

 

But is immigration actually bad for the UK?

According to the Migrants and Citizens website, “there is no foundation for the claim that immigration is undermining the British welfare state. In fact, it looks like the opposite is true”. Almost 93% of benefits go to UK nationals:

The site further explains that:

“In fact, all the data points to the fact that the vast majority of EU migrants actually pay into the UK’s social security system without taking as much out. A 2009 UCL study, comparing net tax receipts with likely expenditure, suggested that Eastern European A8 migrants paid in 35% more than they were likely to receive in welfare services, while natives’ taxes were equivalent to only 80% of the money they received in benefits. These A8 migrants in the UK – are also 60% less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits, and 58% less likely to live in social housing. Although different models of income and outgoings shifted the balance slightly in local citizens’ favour, the overall conclusion was clear: ‘A8 immigrants are unambiguously net fiscal contributors, while natives are unambiguously receiving more than they contribute’.These findings have since been confirmed by a follow-up study released late in 2014, which calculated that EU migrants who have arrived in Britain since 2000 have made a net fiscal contribution of £20bn (non-EU migrants’ net contribution over the same period was £5bn)”.

Basically, I’m the exception here. Most immigrants contribute more than they receive in the UK and I’m hoping to join them soon. Sending immigrants away may actually result in a cut on benefits and pensions for British citizens and less investment for the NHS, not the opposite.

 

My unrequested advice:

  • If you are British, get to know foreigners, learn more about their countries and the situation around the world.
  • If you are an immigrant, join groups that are working to inform and fighting for migrant’s rights in the UK. One Day Without Us and The 3 Million are examples.
  • When feeling discriminated, try talking sensibly about how you feel and avoid accusing others of wrongdoing (unless it’s clearly a case for the police), they might not have noticed they’ve done something. Do talk about it, though.
  • Empathy is underrated and should be exercised more often. Whether you are an immigrant or a UK national, try to imagine what it’s like to be in a different situation; try to understand the reason why people do the things they do.
  • Be sceptical of politicians who blame immigrants for the country’s problems, this is the oldest trick for manipulation. Make sure you fact check all of their claims.

Resposta a Luiz Felipe Pondé

Leia o texto de Pondé aqui.

A conta do sofrimento masculino com a emancipação feminina chegou, e ela se chama seleção natural. É isso, meu caro darwininsta, a evolução da espécie prossegue, quer você acompanhe, quer não. Quem não se adapta às mudanças do meio ambiente vai se perdendo na seleção natural. Mas, como Darwin defendeu – e talvez você tenha perdido essa parte do darwinismo ao perder seu tempo defendendo sua simplificação interpretada por Herbert Spencer – a sociabilidade é de suma importância para se obter vantagem evolutiva; formar conexões é tão importante quanto acasalar para a sobrevivência da espécie. Então, não se preocupe, nós feministas não o deixaremos para trás.

Vamos começar com alguns esclarecimentos. Em sua coluna, você pergunta: “O que será o homem do século 21?”. Ele continuará sendo homem, igualzinho antes. A gente só espera que ele seja mais empático, e isso serve para as mulheres também.

Tenho que discordar de que “à medida que se torna mais inteligente (…) mais ele ficará interessado em si mesmo”. Ao que tudo indica, quanto mais inteligentes, mais interesse temos nos outros. Isso não é um discurso feminista cheio de mimimi; estou falando de neurociência, psicologia social, teoria do apego. Vou explicar melhor.

No estudo do desenvolvimento infantil, sabe-se que as crianças mais bem apegadas – que possuem figuras de apego, como a mãe, pai ou outro adulto significativo – se tornam mais inteligentes (Sunderland, 2016) (Rifkin, 2009) (Mooney, 2010). Isso ocorre porque, ao se sentirem seguros, os bebês e as crianças estão livres para explorar e aprender; sem o stress da autopreservação, já que um adulto está cuidando disso para eles, há mais espaço para o cérebro se desenvolver (Zeedyk).

Em um experimento famoso desenvolvido por Harry Harlow, macaquinhos bebês tiveram as mães substituídas por uma mãe postiça. Metade deles recebeu uma mãe de pano, bem confortável, e a outra metade uma mãe de fios, menos agradável para se aconchegar. Ambas as mães davam leite, para que os macacos fossem nutridos adequadamente. Os macacos com as mães de pano sobreviveram com muito mais sucesso que os macacos com as mães de fios, mesmo quando o leite deixou de ser oferecido. O experimento demonstra a importância de o bebê se sentir seguro e conectado para sobreviver, algo que é semelhante em todos os mamíferos.

Quanto mais apego, mais carinho ela recebe, mais inteligente e resiliente se torna a criança, além disso, ela se torna mais empática. E a empatia é parte essencial na máquina evolutiva de nossa espécie. Sem ela, nos destruímos uns aos outros, sem nos preocupar com os sentimentos de nossas vítimas.

De fato, se a procriação fosse a principal chave da sobrevivência da espécie humana, como explicaríamos a homossexualidade? Fosse assim simples, os genes que determinam predisposição para a homossexualidade já teriam sido extintos na seleção natural, já que a procriação é rara em relacionamentos homo afetivos. A ativação dos “genes gays” ocorre como uma ferramenta de sobrevivência, de acordo com o Dr. James O’Keefe. Quando há um desequilíbrio de gêneros na população, nascem mais gays. Isso ocorre porque, como expliquei anteriormente, nós dependemos de afeto, de relações sociais e conexões para sobreviver. Quanto mais filhos homens uma mãe tem, maiores as chances de o próximo ser gay. O quinto filho homem tem 33% mais chances de ser gay que o primeiro.

Então, quando você diz que as meninas partirão “para a experimentação lésbica por puro desespero”, você está errado. As lésbicas serão lésbicas, as hétero serão hétero. E trans não é moda. Toda essa comunidade LGBT vem de uma ativação genética que a mãe natureza talhou com o maior cuidado para ajudar a nossa espécie. O mesmo gene que determina a homossexualidade também determina maior capacidade para inteligência emocional. O’Keefe explica que, as pessoas que tiram as notas mais altas nos testes de inteligência emocional têm mais de 50% de probabilidade de ser gay. É o gene da empatia.

A homofobia é, portanto, uma afronta à evolução. Isso também vale para o machismo, racismo e todos os tipos de discriminação que indicam um baixo nível de empatia, de consideração pelo bem-estar alheio. O feminismo luta a favor da evolução, das conexões, da empatia, do bem-estar coletivo. E, não se preocupe, nós temos parceiros, maridos, namorados, filhos. Não somos essa figura estereotipada que você pinta em seu artigo.

Agora, vamos combinar, ser darwinista e depois fazer, no mesmo texto, um comentário criacionista é meio contraditório. Também é contraditório dizer que homem é complexo e listar as fantasias sexuais mais cliché da caixa de prazeres. Talvez quem está precisando fazer experimentações sexuais é você, Pondé. Vai lá se descobrir, seja sozinho ou com uma mulher que confie e respeite, e tenta dar uma relaxada. A mudança acontece mesmo, não precisa entrar em pânico. Embarque na evolução que nós não queremos te deixar para trás. Nós só estamos pedindo respeito e igualdade para todos.

E é claro que vamos respeitar seus sentimentos, até mesmo seu temor pelo fim da espécie; mas preciso te lembrar, também, que o ocidente não é mercado de carne, e mulher não é filé para você ir lá catar uma que satisfaça o seu apetite. Até entendo você estar invejando os homens de sociedades menos igualitárias, mas tenho fé em você e a certeza de que você supera isso.

Também vale lembrar que doçura não quer dizer submissão. E submissão é a única característica que você não vai encontrar em mulheres feministas.

Gisela’s Breastfeeding Journey

Gisela breastfeeding Lilly

For a moment that looked like an eternity, Gisela was mute. The voice on the other side of the line didn`t seem to notice her heart racing and her chest turning cold. She was told her midwife had voiced concerns about her daughter and that she was to bring her 10-week-old to the hospital as soon as possible. A million things went through her mind between then and the time she arrived at the hospital at 7pm. Among them, the idea that she had done something wrong, that she was just being stubborn; maybe she should have listened to her family and given little Lilly a bottle. She seemed so healthy, so happy, though. What could be wrong with her except her weight gain not following the standard curves in her red book? Gisela was determined to figure that out as she headed to the hospital.

Hoping for the support and understanding of the staff, Gisela soon felt like she was battling against them. One of the first things she was told as she arrived at the children’s ward was that there wasn’t a bed for her and that she should leave her daughter overnight for observations.

Leave her daughter.

They might as well have asked her to leave her arm for a biopsy.

Because there was no bed for her. Did they expect her to go home and sleep after such amputation? They knew very well Lilly was exclusively breastfed. How could she be separated from her mother for more than a few hours? – Gisela asked herself. It all made no sense. Did they suspect Gisela was neglecting or not offering her daughter proper care? All these ideas came rushing back through Gisela’s mind as she kindly responded:

– Absolutely not!

Followed by a lot of “nos”. Her emphatic response did not stop, however, the doctors who came to check on Lilly to, again, ask Gisela to leave her daughter at the hospital and go home. She wasn’t so kind this time:

– VETE A LA MIERDA! – she’s not sure if her words came out, as her heart must have been blocking her throat.

By the way, I’ll let you Google translate that.

Though the doctors did not speak Spanish, they understood she wouldn’t leave her daughter’s side.

– I either stay with her or I’m taking her home – she said, feeling her blood boil gradually from her chest to the top of her head and tip of her toes.

Though normally patient, Gisela found it hard to sit still and listen to the doctors. Her surly response worked: they decided to run some blood tests and soon discharged Lilly by midnight, as there was nothing wrong with her. Relieved, though slightly traumatized, Gisela took her baby home and resumed her breastfeeding journey. It hadn’t been easy from the start.

 

It all started with her first son, Chris. He’d been born in Spain, by emergency C-section. Though Gisela had always wanted to breastfeed, she soon realised it was harder than she could have imagined.

She had little support. Though nurses assisted her in the first week, as Gisela was in hospital fighting an infection in her scar, she was on her own when she went home. Her partner (British) had to go back to the UK for work and her mother had never breastfed. Chris was losing weight and Gisela’s nipples hurt intensively, to the point she was scared of the baby being brought to her.

She found herself in a really dark place. She loved her son as she had never loved anything before, but she didn’t enjoy nursing him. Chris seemed to always want the breast, it was like he was never satisfied. Tired and in pain, Gisela thought she didn’t want to be with her baby.

Her mother had had enough of it. She went out, bought some formula and gave Chris a bottle. He drank it eagerly, as if he was being fed for the first time. Gisela was told her milk was probably too weak, not enough for her baby. She asked her doctor for a pill to stop her milk supply, and that was the end of her terrible breastfeeding experience.

Her situation only deteriorated after that. Gisela felt like a failure and sunk deep into a postnatal depression. She needed therapy and medication. It took her years to recover.

Six years later – she lived in Blackpool at the time – when she found out she was pregnant again, she was determined to make breastfeeding work. Realizing she might have been able to do it the first time if she’d had appropriate support, Gisela started gathering as much information as she could and preparing in advance. She took prenatal courses, got in touch with as many breastfeeding mothers as she could, joined all the support groups online and took note of all the support meetings in her area. She bought breast pumps and bottles in case she needed them and got herself a Star Buddy.

When Lilly came – also through a C-section, but a lot less problematic than the first – Gisela managed to help her latch on to the breast and things started so smoothly she couldn’t be happier. Her Star Buddy came to the hospital to meet her and introduce her to their system. Gisela was given a contact number to call whenever she needed. The nurses were helpful and always checked to see if breastfeeding was going well. “At first it seemed easy”, says Gisela, “but it wasn’t”.

Just like Chris, Lilly was on the breast all day. Yet, when they went home and the midwife came to check on her, Lilly had lost quite a lot of weight. Gisela was told to keep breastfeeding as usual. Every two days someone would come and check on Lilly. Everything seemed normal, except she was still losing weight. She had been born with more than 4 kg, so she wasn’t tiny, but there was a concern her weight loss wasn’t normal.

To add to the stress, Gisela had sore nipples. “I started to panic, it was Chris all over again”. She bought herself some lanolin cream and carried on; she wasn’t ready to give up. Her Star Buddy visited several times and helped her with the breastfeeding position, giving her plenty of advice on how to handle the situation. A breastfeeding consultant online suggested Gisela took Lilly to the hospital to check for tongue or lip tie, but that wasn’t the case. While in the hospital, “we got assisted during a full feed and I was corrected in how to position her and feed her”, explains Gisela. The pain persisted. Her nipples looked very wounded and would often bleed.

Gisela then found La Leche League. A local member, who was also Spanish, contacted Gisela. “She came in a couple of times”, says Gisela, “again I was given advice and help. And company, which was something I needed the most”.

The pain lasted almost three weeks and then ceased. Gisela was proud of herself for persevering and felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Without the pain, she felt she could overcome any challenges ahead. But Lilly’s weight kept going down until she had lost 11% of her initial weight.

During all this time, Gisela’s family were very concerned and kept telling her to give up and give Lilly some formula. Bombarded with guilt, Gisela found refuge online, talking to other mothers who had gone through the same. She would write all of her concerns down on Facebook support groups and get lots of support. By venting and breastfeeding like there’s no tomorrow, Gisela managed to keep the depression away. “Lilly was my rock”, she explains, “I was always with her”.

By six weeks Lilly finally started gaining weight, but not as fast as she was expected by protocols. After the nightmare hospital visit, Lilly’s weight gain started improving. It was still not ideal, but the midwife and Star Buddy were pleased. “A gain is a gain”, they said. “It was taking long, but we were finally succeeding”, smiles Gisela. Every weight gain was a reason to celebrate.

When Gisela took Lilly to Spain to meet her family, she found out her mum had booked her an appointment with the family’s paediatrician. “I trusted him, so I didn’t mind”. The GP expressed his concerns about Lilly being so light and the slow weight gain. He recommended that she didn’t stop breastfeeding but offer her baby a top up with formula after every feed. Gisela’s mum was pleased with the solution found, but Gisela felt devastated: “I felt like a failure, but I had managed so much against all odds”. She carries on:

“I didn’t want to give her the bottle at first. I was scared she wouldn’t take the breast after. But I thought he wouldn’t lie to me and that at the end of the day her health was at risk and I was not going to chance it”.

She started giving Lilly a supplement of 60ml of formula after a normal feed, but only three times a day, not after every feed as she was told. To her relief, Lilly never stopped wanting her breast and her weight gain stabilized; but Gisela noticed a decreased in her milk supply, so she went on the Facebook group for advice. “I was quite attacked about it, and got told that my doctor was not good for the advice and all”. Some mothers shared they were doing the same thing as her, but others shared assumptions that Spanish doctors weren’t that good. It pushed Gisela away from support groups online.

 

Gisela has been breastfeeding for the last ten months and is very pleased with her daughter. Lilly is happy and healthy, eating all her solids and still enjoying her mother’s breast. In fact, when Gisela comes home from work, Lilly won’t let her do anything before picking her up and giving her a feed. To Gisela, breastfeeding was the hardest thing she has ever done, but it was definitely worth the struggle – it still is, as her breastfeeding journey has not yet ended.