Jim Dunn and his incredible journey as an undocumented musician in the United States for nearly 29 years, touches heavily upon themes themes of identity and self-transformation through his migrant experience.
Prior to the attacks on the world trade centers in 2011, our country was relatively easy to cross into and live illegally under the radar. For Canadians at least. Obviously there were underlying tensions and an apprehensive stance against different outside countries, however, as Jim’s story articulates, the United States was primarily concerned with Cubans at the time. It is interesting that some populations and groups of people are isolated and targeted while others are simply given the blind eye. Imagine how different Jim’s journey and identity experience would have been had be been Cuban instead of Canadian.
Jim came to America with a dream of playing rock n roll and making it. He was hardly concerned with getting caught and being kicked out and returning to his home country. His youth and his ambitions were all that mattered at the time and majority of his prime was dedicated to creating his identity as a musician. His experience is contrastingly different than that of others who may have the same dreams of “making it” in a country where the streets are paved in gold. While other immigrants and undocumented individuals searched for decent paying jobs and somewhat safe housing, Jim’s primary concerns were rooted in where his next gig was and the hotel room number that was assigned to him. His identity as undocumented citizens was hardly one of his biggest worries and in fact, only seemed to become a reality to him when there was possibility of being randomly caught or discovered. Ironically, Jim’s method of remaining hidden here in the United States was done so through the spotlight he placed himself under every time he played a gig. His identity as Canadian came in second when compared to that of his identity of a musician that Jim dreamed of and worked hard to establish.
That being said, it is important to also highlight that there were brief moments within Jim’s past that spoke to Jim’s identity as an undocumented migrant experience. Jim traveled all across the United States fully understanding his status as being undocumented and that he could be caught and kicked out at any moment. It wasn’t until Jim came upon the pivotal moment in his life where marrying his wife, the presence of his new family, and the attack on the soil in which Jim now resided, that he came face to face with the need and importance in becoming a citizen and a legal resident. His identity as a husband and father contributed to his identity as a new American, which ultimately led to his need for gaining legal citizenship.
Jim’s story is a tale of hard work, youthful ambition, at times pure dumb luck, and most of all an ever-changing and growing identity. An identity that paved his path towards fame, love, family and the Canadian-American pride he possesses today and that lives inside of him.