Immigration

These California Kids Got In Trouble for Playing La Migra, a Game Where 'Border Agents' Chase 'Illegal Immigrants'

But it's a great game for gringos and Mexicans alike.

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vectorisation/Wikimedia Commons

For decades, high school students have played a game called La Migra in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Benicia, California. It's a mix of cops-and-robbers and tag. Upperclassmen assume the role of border agents (the aforementioned migra) as they look for freshmen and sophomores, who assume the role of immigrants. The "immigrants" get a 10-minute head-start on la migra, who scour the town to find them. Everyone has one giant fiesta. And when the freshmen become seniors, they get to become migra, too!

Who can possibly be upset by a game like that? Everyone, it turns out. Fans and friends started tagging me almost immediately on Twitter and Facebook when news broke. The story cropped up on The Drudge Report; local television stations interviewed "concerned parent" Daniel Serna, who compared the game to Nazis chasing Jews and the Klan lynching blacks (the correct historical corollary is the Texas Rangers against Tejanos, pendejo). School administrators sent a letter to Benicia parents vowing to crack down on the game.

Meanwhile, the kids who actually played La Migra had no idea what the furor was about—to them, it was just an excuse to run around.

My pals expected outrage from me. Instead, most of them got upset at my reaction: "Oh, yeah, I remember that game. It was fun! Kids still play it? Cool!"

It's true. My friends and I played La Migra over 30 years ago as second-graders at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Anaheim. And so did my brother, who is 12 years younger than me. Cousins even younger than us played it. So did people older than me.

We weren't upper-middle-class white kids like those in Benicia, but rather working-class Mexicans, almost all of us the children of immigrants, many of them undocumented. None of us were triggered; none of us called those who participated "problematic." Hell, we were more offensive than Benicia High: The only safe space for the immigrant team in our game was on the other side of a human wall that you had to break through. And we started the game with someone screaming "¡LA MIGRA!"—you know, just like in real life.

We were boys and girls who knew all about the terrors of the Border Patrol—and we were going to have fun at their expense, dammit.

The true offense of Benicia's La Migra is something the left doesn't like to acknowledge and the right can't even comprehend. The act of coming to el Norte without papers can be a fun adventure.

Just ask my dad and his brothers. They came to the United States repeatedly as mojados ("wetbacks"—their word to describe themselves, not mine) from the 1960s through the 1980s, a Golden Age of illegal immigration. Those were the days when deportation was always imminent yet the state of California documented mojados by giving them drivers licenses and Social Security numbers, as if for a job well done.

And the stories they tell! My tíos light up when they recall coyotes they paid, bushes they hid in, identities they assumed, all while evading the migra. My dad, in particular, loves to tell the tale of the first time he entered illegally, in 1968. He travelled in the trunk of a Chevy alongside his cousin and a stranger, while the Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face" blasted on the stereo (would've been better if it was "Ticket to Ride," amirite?). They each paid a blonde hippie girl from Huntington Beach and her assimilated Mexican-American boyfriend $50 apiece to drive them over the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro.

My dad and his brothers make illegal immigration sound like one decades-long Keystone Kops sketch, mixed in with some Three Stooges pratfalls. And it wasn't just them. For decades, Mexican culture hailed illegal immigrants as mythical tricksters who came and went across la frontera with ease, humiliating Uncle Sam every step of the way. There were songs that pointed out Superman was an illegal (don't get mad at my word choice, SJWs, the tune is called "Superman es Ilegal" and the album cover depicts la migra capturing Superman in a phone booth) and that had former undocumented migrants not only getting away with a DUI but sharing a shot of tequila with the migra who caught them and calling him a "güey" (dumbass) in the process ("Chulas Fronteras"). They eluded la migra again and again ("Los Alambrados"—"The Wire Jumpers") and, um, pissed and crapped and wiped their dirty butts on the border wall ("El Muro de la Vergüenza"—"The Border Wall of Shame," by rock en españols dinosaurs El Tri).

These aren't novelty songs recorded by cult groups. Conjunto norteño legends Los Alegres de Terán recorded "El Corrido de los Mojados" ("The Ballad of the Wetbacks"—imagine recording that today!), which maintains that the solution to illegal immigration is for Mexican men to marry white girls and divorce them once they're legal. And ranchera titan Vicente Fernandez, the macho Zeus of Mexican music, recorded "Los Mandados" ("The Errands"), a song about a mojado whom la migra caught "300 times, let's say" and eventually brutalized. But rather than whine, Fernandez's character not only sued the hell out of the Border Patrol but laughed all the way to the bank.

Films also portrayed illegal immigrants as hilarious masters of their own destiny. The 1980s films of La India Maria (Mary the Indian, a character in the same populist vein as Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp) frequently mocked the Border Patrol as the clueless agents of the state that they are. Then there was Born in East L.A., a 1987 farce by stoner legend Cheech Marín. Here, the government is so inept that they deport his character, a Mexican-American citizen so assimilated that he knows Ronald Reagan hosted Death Valley Days but forgot he was president of the United States.

Some undocumented activists in the United States still maintain a flippant approach to their immigration status. But that rich vein of social satire long ago became déclassé for the left and virtually disappeared from mainstream culture. It's far easier to cast immigrants as poor, pathetic victims who constantly live in fear than as wily individuals who know how to embarrass the most powerful nation on Earth by the mere act of making a life for themselves en los Estados Unidos.

That's what La Migra is ultimately about. It's preposterous to legislate away a game that children have played for decades and that harms only the klutzes who fall down in the chase. And it's even more preposterous that the Debbie Downers in Benicia won. Earlier this week, the kids announced that their game is now called "Extreme Fun Run." Who the hell wants to play that?

By the way, playing the immigrant in La Migra is far cooler than being Border Patrol. Sure, it's fun tracking down your classmates, but nothing beats the look of disgust on la migra's face when an immigrant not only evades them but also crashes through the human border wall to freedom. Just ask an actual undocumented immigrant, you know?

NEXT: Fresno State Shouldn't Fire a Professor for Saying She's Glad Barbara Bush Died

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    1. Kids don’t grow up anymore. They don’t want to because it might mean taking on some responsibility.

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    2. So do adults. Except they seem to need equipment to do it, like paintball guns. And of course, some people object to that, too.

  1. They came to the United States repeatedly as mojados (“wetbacks”?their word to describe themselves, not mine)

    The term I always heard these days was “Wacho” but that might be more slur than mojados.


  2. …which maintains that the solution to illegal immigration is for Mexican men to marry white girls and divorce them once they’re legal.

    Oddly enough, this is a sentiment among African American men too only replace ‘divorce them once they’re legal’ with ‘get them pregnant to dilute white genes’.

    I’m not saying it’s a widespread view or anything, but it appears that most ethnic groups agree that white women are best for a variety of bizarre reasons. At least in the case of Mexicans it makes sense from a legal perspective.

    1. Never understood that. Probably just because we’re perceived as the power race.

      Regardless, black and hispanic women are much better.

      1. One word… Blasian

        1. Don’t taint my racial preferences with Asian people.

          1. He said taint.

      2. Actually, it’s just that white people in general are always ranked the most attractive by people of all races. It’s basically impossible to beat a gorgeous Swedish chick.

        In studies done whites tend to be at the top for male and female, but the lists vary. Like black men score higher on the list than black women, but Asian women score higher than Asian men etc. It’s just universally preferable looks stuff apparently.

    2. Everyone knows Asian women are the best.

  3. Oh, FFS! Just pass a law requiring people to call it La Cucaracha or something more innocuous.

    Somewhat related: Making a meal out of a dog or a cat may soon land you in jail.

    1. Oh great! Ever seen the lyrics to La Cucaracha? “ya no puede caminar, por que no tiene, porque le falta, marijuana que fumar!” If the DEA comes torturing to find out whose idea that was, I’m pointing at Rich.

  4. Is this the wrong time for me to suggest my idea for Simon Legree vs. Eliza cosplay?

    1. LOL — Lash out with it!

  5. “…the correct historical corollary is the Texas Rangers against Tejanos, pendejo…”
    The word you’re looking for is analog.

  6. Shucks, In Dallas we used to play narcs ‘n hippies half a century ago. Gilbert Shelton even had a board game out…

    1. narcs ‘n hippies half a century ago

      In my rural Indiana microcosm we grew up playing “VC Ambush”.

  7. I’m okay with illegal immigrants, as long as they don’t complain about anything when they are here. Don’t willingly come illegally into the country and then fucking complain how terrible America treats you or proclaim how proud of being Mexican you are. If you think that, then fucking leave. Racial and ethnic pride of every variety is evil and bigoted.

    1. Oh who gives a shit. People is people. If the people who own border land want to complain about trespassers, that’s fine with me, otherwise, who gives a shit. People is people. They can complain all they want, that’s what people do, and people is people. I don’t see anyone complaining when people brag about their non-existent Irish heritage on March 17th. How many non-Mexicans celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

      Fuck cultural appropriation whiners. Fuck whiners.

      1. They can complain all they want, that’s what people do, and people is people.

        Fuck whiners.

        I’m wondering where you draw the line between “complaining” and “whining”.

  8. Some undocumented activists in the United States still maintain a flippant approach to their immigration status. But that rich vein of social satire long ago became d?class? for the left and virtually disappeared from mainstream culture. It’s far easier to cast immigrants as poor, pathetic victims who constantly live in fear than as wily individuals who know how to embarrass the most powerful nation on Earth by the mere act of making a life for themselves en los Estados Unidos.

    They have a narrative to push, and the idea that illegal immigrants, minorities, poor people, and women are individuals with agency and not just faceless, nameless victims who need their “help” gets in the way of that narrative.

  9. “My dad and his brothers make illegal immigration sound like one decades-long Keystone Kops sketch, mixed in with some Three Stooges pratfalls. And it wasn’t just them. For decades, Mexican culture hailed illegal immigrants as mythical tricksters who came and went across la frontera with ease, humiliating Uncle Sam every step of the way.”

    Poke fun of the country that gives a better shot at life? Ouch!

  10. Next up. Ring around the Rosie.

  11. Before I forget, I like these sort of cultural ‘insider’ stories.

  12. What the hell?
    We played cowboys and indians; we even made gun gestures with our hands and yelled bang bang!
    We played cops and robbers, too.
    We played OUTSIDE (!) out of sight of our parents, roaming blocks and blocks away.
    We played tackle football without pads or helmets (often without rules).
    I guess fun has been legislated away, and people wonder why kids just sit on the couch and text or play electronic games.

  13. Today’s Cowboy’s and Indians.

  14. Do I need to even bring up the erstwhile playground rite of passage known as “Smear The Queer”?
    The game was great for teaching you how to track and subdue a weasel in mob formation and invaluable toward helping you elude angry mobs later in life.

    At the time we played this queer meant “weird” not “Sodomite” thusly no one wanted to be the “Queer”

  15. as they look for freshmen and sophomores, who assume the role of immigrants illegal migrants robbers

    FTFY

    local television stations interviewed “concerned parent” Daniel Serna, who compared the game to Nazis chasing Jews and the Klan lynching blacks

    That analogy is totally backwards. Nazis were progressives and Jews were citizens. The Klan was Democrats and blacks were also citizens.

    There were songs that pointed out Superman was an illegal

    How do you know? Any alien of extraordinary ability can receive a green card easily.

  16. “upper-middle-class white kids like those in Benicia”

    Reason is starting to sound too much like the MSM. Sloppy reporting. No fact checking.

    Yes, Benicia the city, is majority white….about 62%. But, school district boundaries and admissions criterion don’t follow city limits.

    Vallejo, a much larger city, is right next door, where I live, and one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. with no majority racial identity.

    Benicia has much higher rated schools and, walla, at Benicia HS minority enrollment is 50% of the student body (majority Hispanic and Asian). It’s not reflective of the City itself.

    Even just a cursory review of recent news photos of the students playing La Migra there reveals a large percentage, around 50% by my count, of non-whites actively engaging.

    It’s truly sad when even Reason stoops to lazy journalism like this.

    The best thing about Vallejo isn’t the almost equal proportions by racial measure (diversity). it is that no one here really gives a shit about it. People mix and mingle and don’t care about racial tribalism. And, based on my own experience here, the make up of my own family and my observations when out and about in the public sphere, I beleive the number of mixed race people in the 2016 U.S. census data is grossly understated at just 2%. My own, high income neighborhood is a perfect example of all of this. Doctors, lawyers, other professionals. White, black, brown, yellow and who knows what else. It isn’t a measure we use.

    1. My great hope, as a 1957 born late baby boomer, is that when my grandchildren have to check a box on the census form, that they would not check any particular government defined racial or ethnic indicator. And, if they do, they’ll hit “more than one” and send a message to drop this governmental inspired non-issue from this aphorism.

      Lord knows my generation, after a solid start in moving past tribalism, has failed in having it become a non-issue.

      My chihauhaus and terriers have more genetic differences than I do with any of my non-white neighbors. It’s time we dropped this whole charade. Even in Reason reports.

      1. You’re trippin’ buddy. People, by the numbers, almost always marry within their own ethnic group. Even today. So we’re not all going to blend anytime soon.

        And the biggest problem is there are too many statistically verifiable trait differences. This makes SOME groups unwise to breed with some other groups. That pesky, persistent IQ difference probably being the most important…

        I’m a bit of a mutt already (small parts native and Mexican), but there is no way in hell I’d breed with anybody other than an above average intelligence white chick. If I was really tall, maybe an Asian chick, but I’m not so I don’t want to take the chance of having some runty 5’2″ son… My mom was already short as heck and I’m lucky I didn’t end up being that guy myself!

        People put WAY too little thought into this stuff. I’m just not going to breed with anyone where I’d have to feel bad about the outcome of my children because of my bad decision. I couldn’t look a 8″ below average, 10 IQ point below average kid in the face every day knowing that I knew better and did it anyway… Even if I loved their mother. It’s just cruel.

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  19. seharusnya orangtua mereka bisa lebih mengawasi anaknya lebih

  20. HAHAHA!

    I used to play this game when I was a kid! I grew up right down the road from there. I hadn’t thought about this in FOREVER. I’ll have to store this one in the old memory banks so I can teach my kids someday 🙂 LOL

  21. Poor Gustavo. He – like so many – thinks that only his origin story is the “legitimate” one. Surprise! There were people of tenuous connection to Mexico (wait…Mexico is the modern name of the place…) living in California LONG before his Dad snuck in. This is where he uses some spanish words to call me names – because, HE is the legit one. Yeah…..he has internalized his inferiority. So sad.

  22. Was wondering where Gustavo would pop up.

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