I truly believe in the American Dream and I’ve spent most of my adult life working for America. I was born here, served in the military and became disabled, became an immigration officer and worked for FEMA.
When I was an immigration officer, I thought a lot about what it meant to me to be a citizen. Most of us take it for granted. We were born here and we are citizens, simple as that. I met people every day at work that sacrificed everything they had to come here and achieve their dreams. I met people that wanted a better life for themselves and their families. I met people that wanted to contribute to our grand experiment in diversity and freedom.
Part of my job was to ascertain if these people were morally and legally qualified to be citizens. I also had to test their knowledge of our language and government. During my interviews, I learned their stories. I learned how they came to be here and what they had done since their arrival. I met people that made me ashamed about taking my civil rights for granted. I can tell you many stories, about the lady who carried her sister 3 days across the desert so she could get her medical care for polio (a disease we don’t even have anymore), or the 103 year old woman who came to get away from a communist regime.
To me, each one of them were heroes. They risked everything for the dream of a better life. Now that I am retired, I have friends that are immigrants, both legal and illegal. One of my best friends is a woman who left her 2 small children in the care of her mother to come here illegally and work. It was the only way she could provide for her kids. She hasn’t seen them in 5 years. Her daughter is now about to be a teenager and her son is in middle school. Their clothes, food and education paid for by her work here. I’ve seen her work 16 hours a day six days a week and deny herself even the most basic comforts so that they can have a taste of the “good life”.
I have to ask myself “wouldn’t any one of us do the same to provide for our families?”
No, I don’t think we can just open the flood gates and let everyone in. However, I think it is time to stop the duplicity.
Our illegal immigrants are the unseen slave class of our society. They have no rights, no health care and work for very low wages at jobs most Americans won’t do. I believe the last estimate was 20 million illegal immigrants living in this country. Most of them are hard working and law abiding. They contribute to their communities and provide cheap labor.
We have a choice. We can continue to treat them like slaves or admit that we need them and find a way for them to be legal so that they can have equal rights in the country they are helping to build. I had to clean up some of the “dog” cases from the last amnesty. It was a horror. There was rampant fraud, poorly trained and racist officers and a system that seriously underestimated the number of applicants. Many mistakes were made and I was working to correct them into the late 90’s. I believe we can do better. I believe we can create an amnesty program that will work and stop the slavery in America, the land of the free.