|Bailey is wrestling's poster child for immigration reform|
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Remember Seleziya Sparx? Or Speedball Mike Bailey? Both are Canadian wrestlers who started to hit a groove in American promotions. Sparx was a fixture in Absolute Intense Wrestling who was bleeding over into other companies like Ring of Honor. Meanwhile, Bailey became an instant fan favorite when he was first booked in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and started taking dates for EVOLVE. Then, poof, they stopped appearing across the border. Sparx has nearly disappeared from wrestling altogether, making some token appearances in Alpha-1 Wrestling here and there. Bailey has continued working in Canadian indies and in other countries, but his American appearances are done for. Both are gone for the same reason; they messed up something during the visa process and were banned from obtaining American work access for five years.
Five years for working a show while applying for a visa, working on an expired visa unknowingly, or whatever other seemingly minor pratfalls could happen during the unnecessarily arduous process seems monstrously harsh. Then again, the statute in the Constitution against cruel and unusual punishments only applies to citizens. The burdens are especially brutal for wrestlers that don't have corporate protections because indie competitors live on margins and don't have pesky things like money or legal expertise to throw around at their leisure. However, corporate wrestlers still have stumbled with visa problems. Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Michael Elgin, and Angelina Love are all wrestlers who have had to sit out periods of time or were threatened with sitting out or even banning over visa snafus.
For a nation founded by men who came into already sovereign territory, claimed it as their own despite an entire population of people living there, and then proceed to decimate that population, the United States is unkind to allowing people easy access into the country for any reason. Whether it be for work or residence, the US' immigration process is tiresome and complex to the point where illegal immigration is the only reasonable way for entry here to escape from brutal, life-threatening situations in countries like Mexico, Somalia, or Syria. The nominal reason is that the immigration process keeps the country safe, which again, a nation founded on genocide and illegal seizure of land should be the last one on Earth to claim moral authority on keeping out malevolent forces.
Many will claim the US is built on immigration, and they would be correct. This country would be nothing without those who immigrated here, whether voluntarily or against their will for the purposes of providing slave labor. However, what if I claimed that the whole idea of the nation-state is outmoded and bullshit, especially in a world with global connectivity and unprecedented riches? What is a nation but an arbitrary parcel of land that existed long before humanity developed sentience and will be here long after the human race has either gone extinct or abandoned the planet as a place of habitation?
All a country is is a reason for world leaders to engage in a military-industrial exercise of sending the poor to their deaths for shits and giggles. Maybe the idea of the nation-state was necessary at one time during the history of civilization, but the idea outgrew its usefulness with quickness as it gave rise to monarchies, dictatorships, oligarchies, and other means of concentrating wealth centrally in the world's cruelest, longest-lasting, and largest game of Keep-Away. I mean, I know it's not chic to quote faux-intellectual music lyrics, but John Lennon kinda nailed it with "Imagine:"
Imagine there's no countriesWhat is a country than a license to kill anyway? What separates you from a Canadian fellow other than what bureaucrat issues your birth certificates? Persons from India and Pakistan are genetically compatible in every single way except for this idea in their minds that their nationalities make them enemies. Imagine every border dissipating in the night and tomorrow, all peoples were sovereign citizens with no identity but their own unique personality. I doubt every problem would be gone overnight, but how many petty differences that result in loss of life or quality of life would vanish into thin air?
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
"But TH," the lover of autocratic regimes might say, "Countries equal culture." That statement is patently false. Some cultures spanned and continue to span across multiple countries, while the more common theme is each nation has several subcultures. One can think of Russia and how vast it is and how many different indigenous peoples it has within its borders, but even smaller nations like Spain have these diverse microcultures. One could argue "Spain" doesn't really exist but is an amalgam of smaller subcultures like the Basque and Catalan under a central government on a singular peninsula (that they don't even occupy completely!). Even the indigenous peoples here or Native Americans weren't some monolithic entity. The North and South American continents contained hundreds, maybe thousands of tribes with their own customs and political mores.
Leaving those cultures alone to be insular is one thing, but magic happens when they meet and merge and create fusions. Food, music, motion picture, and any kind of art or science one can think of immediately benefits whenever new ideas meet each other in peaceful congress. The liberal, feelgood reason why the US is the greatest country ever is because it's such a diverse melting pot, which is why anti-immigration sentiments from both the right and some portions of the center wanting to curtail it feels so goddamn gross.
To cycle back to pro wrestling, what pro wrestling promotion or style hasn't benefited from having people from all over the world meet in it? Early top babyface wrestlers for the McMahon family, from Antonino Rocca through Pedro Morales, were all "ethnic" wrestlers in order to appeal to New York City's heavy immigrant population. Rikidozan, the father of puroresu, was a Korean immigrant to Japan. Ultimo Dragon and Yoshihiro Tajiri honed their crafts in Mexico. I could give examples of how free passage of human beings throughout the world has not only enhanced wrestling but is vitally essential for its growth and continuation.
So not allowing people like Bailey and Sparx to continue their careers in America, especially when their presences in their home companies were not only welcome but vital, seems like it should be enough of a concern for wrestling fans to move left and support radical immigration reform, one that emphasizes the positives of people moving from country to country, not the fears. But as with most issues that touch wrestling, the value to the industry is piddling compared to the human benefits.
Supporting immigration reform is the right thing to do as a human being. People don't just want to come into the US to do it and its people harm for no reason, and those who do will find a way to get in regardless of immigration bans. Coincidentally enough, the bans that Hobgoblin-in-Chief Donald Trump wants to put in affect countries that have produced a grand total of zero terrorists who've successfully attacked US soil anyway.
But regardless, bans, complex legal means, and deportation for undocumented immigrants aren't bad because they're not 100 percent effective; no measure of precaution is going to work all the time. They are bad because they block immense levels of potential good. The humanitarian thing to do is to let refugees from a brutal civil war in Syria, a war which the US is contributing to, into this nation with few questions asked. It would be to allow Mexicans to cross the border in search of better wages and lives safer from the iron fists of drug cartels. It is blaming the enablers of oppression in these countries (Bashir al-Assad, ISIS, American corporations who pay undocumented labor pennies on the dollar to do work citizens could be doing) and not blaming the victims.
Radical immigration reform, one that values human lives above profits and xenophobic concerns about "country," is a no-brainer for anyone, wrestling fan or not, to support. Wrestling fans, on top of the humanitarian benefits, would be wise to support leftist immigration reforms because it would allow the best wrestlers in the world to enter the United States more easily and help transform and influence the industry. Who knows what kind of impact someone like Bailey, who is one of the most unique high-flyers in the industry, could be making by continuing work for PWG, EVOLVE, and other promotions? That chance has been erased thanks to arcane laws and the lack of legal expertise available to him because he didn't have a shitload of money or a megacorporation backing him.