I want to weigh in on the whole illegal immigration debate, mostly because I caught myself affected by the current issue and then I caught myself emotionally caring about the issue. I know this is a little long, but please take time to read it, it is VERY timely.
I am a proud registered republican. I align most political issues accordingly. OK, not really, I really do think about the issues and the republican point of view aligns up with mine. Most of the time. I am also Christian, so I first try to analyze issues through the eyes of Christ. Sometimes those two points of view are at odds.
So my views on the whole illegal immigration issue: Let me first clarify that I am NOT talking about legal immigration, come one, come all-as long as you are coming legally. I think our borders should be secured and monitored (I don’t think a wall, fence, or trench is the answer-but instead a HUGE waste of money). I think illegal immigrants should NOT get a free pass nor be rewarded for breaking the law. I do think that illegal immigrants should be penalized and in many cases sent back home-deported.
HOWEVER, I think that when these illegal immigrants get back home they should be free to try again legally and at an affordable cost. Let me introduce you to one of my friends.
I used to live in an apartment. Around Christmas time a Mexican family moved in a couple of doors down. One of the first things that we noticed is that they didn’t have much for Christmas. Now I can’t remember how we came to that, but we just were not too sure they were gonna have presents and such for their 3 children. Since we had bought just about every Rescue Hero action figure known to man we took wrapped presents from under our tree and left them anonymously at the doorstep of our new neighbors. We also had a couch that we replaced and were also able to give that to our new neighbors. (A very valuable lesson that we were able to teach our children: ALWAYS BE WILLING TO GIVE.) These acts of kindness opened a door to allow us to become friends (another valuable lesson).
Before long we shared food, were fishing together and just developing relationships. We came to learn that they were from southern Texas and ultimately from Mexico. They had family on both sides of the border. And much of their family had migrated north to seek better lives. Ramiro (the father), was learning English; he was pretty good at it, but not very confident. He was a very hard worker and moved around from construction job-to-construction job trying to obtain a better wage. Mary (the mother), although Mexican in her ethnicity, was born in the US and knew how to read and write very well. Mary also worked at the cafeteria in the local school system. Mary, who is legal has worked and has paid taxes. Her children, who are all legal, have been able to attend public school. We all became pretty good friends.
It seemed like every weekend they would get together with the rest of their family and siesta! There was BBQ, children, music and partying. And holidays and birthdays were extra special! There were Piñatas full of candy; there was fireworks, and FOOD, FOOD, FOOD! They would always ask us over or send over a plate of delicious food.
Then one day Ramiro called me over, he said something in Spanish to his brother and then turned back to me. Now I could tell that he had been drinking a little bit and he was feeling pretty good. But he seemed adamant about communicating to me and wanted to make sure he got it right, so his brother was there to help. He told me that his name was not Ramiro. At first I just thought I had gotten it wrong all of this time! But then he admitted that he had lied to me. He said that his real name was Mario. He told me that he was in the US illegally and that he had lied because he did not know if he could trust me or not. But now he could trust me enough to tell me the truth, to tell me who he really was. Now I had heard that name here and there, and that may have been one of the reasons to confide in me, to reconcile any confusion I had, but I never really thought too much of it. That conversation had an emotional impact on me. Here was someone I had developed a friendship with and he was entrusting me with some pretty valuable info. He was confiding in me. Mario was putting his trust in me.
I have been able to have many serious conversations with Mario. Mario told me dreams of becoming a contractor within the construction industry; his dreams of owning a business and of making a fine living. He definitely had the drive and know-how. I told him one time about affordable housing in a neighborhood that had a few Mexican families in it. I’ll never forget his response: He did not want to live in a neighborhood where there were only Spanish-speaking people or where there was a Mexican culture; he wanted to live somewhere where his children would be encultured into an American culture, one where English was natural and where there was opportunity for his children to fit in and thus provide his children with more opportunities to make their lives better in the US. I also remember asking him why he didn’t just become legal. He replied that it was very expensive and that he was making more money than other legal immigrants (and residents) in his family, so where was the motivation?
When we moved away we tried to stay in touch, but I only got to really hang out a few times over the past few years. We have had baby boy #4 and they have had a 4th child, their first baby girl.
Mary contacted my wife a week or so ago. Her children were playing at a church next-door when they damaged the church sign. Mario went to the pastor and told him that he was very sorry and offered to repair or pay for any damage that his children may have caused. Instead of taking Mario up on the offer he called the authorities and they arrested Mario. He has been in jail for a few weeks now. He is waiting to face a hefty penalty or to be deported. So now my struggle is seeing a family torn apart. Mary can move to wherever Mario ends up. They can have a life and survive. But they want to be in the Land of Opportunity. They want to have a better life for their family.
I was relaying this story to a group of my church friends, and I found myself getting quite choked up. I don’t know what to do to help. Maybe my friends and I can come up with the money to pay the fine. Maybe I can help Mario get in contact with the right people to start the proper legalization process. Maybe my friends and I can get the money needed for Mario to become legal. If he is deported will he even be able to try to come here legally?
I know that there are lots of other “real” factors involved in this issue. The state of the US economy, US financial assistance to illegal immigrants (although Mario worked very hard to provide for his family, the rest of his family did receive financial assistance, LEGALLY qualifying), national security, and the list goes on and on. I also know that Mario should have come to the US legally. But he didn’t and he should have to answer to the law.
Even though I don’t know all of the answers, I am pretty sure the answer is not deporting my friend back to Mexico where he may not ever be able to pursue a better life in the US and where he may be separated from his family. I am pretty sure the answer is providing a cheap incentive for immigrants to be able to enter the US legally, and for them to be able to live normal lives.