Let me take you all to a place where most of you have never been before. Let me take you with me to a life lived in a land without Freedom. I’ve been there.
In a land without Freedom there is no hope, there are no dreams of a better tomorrow for the children. My parents faced that.
In a country where there is no Freedom there is no way to face the dawn and say “today will be better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow.” We lived that.
In a place where there is no Freedom there is no pride in self. There are no reasons to accomplish because the fruit of your sweat and hard work belongs to others, never to you. Ask my people, we’ve been there.
In a place like my homeland all you can hope for is America, the dream and the promise. We dreamed that dream.
Stop and look around you right now. Stop reading and look around you.
Think of the things around you; the pictures, the mementos. The childrens’ shoes you still keep in a drawer somewhere. The first card from a grandchild with scribbled letters reading “I love you Grandma and Grandpa” maybe yellowed with age, maybe just received yesterday. We once had those things.
Touch the walls on the home you grew up in, the walls that still resonate with the voices of those loved ones long gone. Feel the warmth of a household at night, when you’re up and everyone else sleeps; safe and secure in their beds. We left those homes.
Walk outside and stand barefooted on the cool grass, reach down and grab a handful of soil. Your soil, and breathe deep the night air. Look at the heavens above you and the familiar stars over your corner of the world. We irrigated that soil with our tears.
Touch and smell everything that makes you a family and a people. Let it sink into every pore on your body until it reaches the very center of your being. That was all we could take with us.
Then pack all you can into a solitary suitcase, turn your back and leave; never to return.
We’ve been there; my people and me.
But we were blessed. We were blessed indeed.
You see, we had hope, real hope, and “change” meant America, not changing her, so we came. We came by the hundreds of thousands. We came to the dream, not “a” dream, THE dream.
We came by air and we were the lucky ones. Some chose to risk death rather than live without Liberty and braved the treacherous straits. One hundred thousand didn’t make. They lie in a watery grave, forgotten by all save those of us who faced the same choice. They sank to the depths embracing their children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, or even a stranger. Some died all alone.
All in the name of Freedom, all looking to the promise: the promise of America.
This is my story, and the story of my people.
We had a dream of freedom, driven by the hope found just beyond the horizon.
Now, stop reading again, and go look in on your children, touch the walls of the home where they sleep safely night after night, go look at those things, those mementos that mean the world to you, remember the sounds of the family gathered at the Thanksgiving table.
Walk outside; walk barefooted on the grass and feel the coolness of the night on your skin, the blades of grass caressing your feet. Reach down and take a handful of soil, of good American soil, and rub it into the palms of your hands, and then stand and find that point in the horizon where hope may be found.
Find that point where you will struggle to get to, with suitcase in hand, and all the memories your heart can carry, should the lights of this shining city upon a hill be forever dimmed.
That point is nowhere in the horizon, there is only here; here is the place where hope came to flourish, not to die. So here is where we both stand, you and I, and here is where you and I will decide whether we let hope die, or keep it alive.
It is easy for me my friend; I made my choice decades ago.
I chose the hope of America then, I chose freedom. I still choose them both today.
I pray that you now do the same.
(Original publication date January 14, 2003)
That’s my answer.
My wife hates ants, she freaks out when she sees those little tiny ones (pissants we called them as kids) running across the kitchen floor. She buys gallons of insecticide, she drowns them in the stuff, and we pay a guy to fumigate every month.
But the ants always come back.
One day I decided to find out what was going on, I had always thought that ants are just a fact of life, and that you better get used to interacting with insects, living in the tropics and all (the Florida State bird should be the mosquito), so I tracked one.
It came in through a tiny hole under the sliding-glass door leading out to the patio. It ran across the floor, along the wall, up the side of the cabinet, and into a little crevice that led it to the storage area below my kitchen sink. I opened the door just in time to see the little guy climb up the wall of the kitchen trashcan, and into a veritable pissant smorgasbord!
My kid’s leftover banana peels from breakfast, the last two bites of a Pop Tart, some coffee grounds, and the crumbs from the bottom of a box of Frosted Flakes.
That’s our problem, we leave sugar out for the ants, and then we act surprised, and outraged, when they show up to do what ants do.
What needs to be done in order to bring an end to the problem of illegal immigration, is possibly be more than what we are willing to go through as a nation; if the recent actions by the Arizona State legislature proved anything at all, it proves that while the majority of Americans support the IDEA of bringing the issue of millions of unregistered, undocumented people in the country to an end, we are also concerned with the possibility of hurting some individuals along the way.
There is simply no way that we can take control of our borders, and enforce the existing laws without suffering through some level of discomfort as a nation. But make no mistake, the issue must be resolved, and it must be resolved rather quickly.
What is it that we need to do?
We need to stop giving the house away, and we need to quit electing politicians who do it. We need to convince others that they need to do the same.
The quick (and deadly) solution of militarizing the borders, is scary, and has no possible end in sight, the moment we think we have things under control and stand down, the ants will come again. It’s like taking an over-the-counter cold remedy, you’re still sick; you’re just too medicated to notice; and as soon as you stop taking it, you feel like crap again.
We need to seriously curtail the welfare entitlement programs, for everyone too, not just illegal immigrants. We need to limit State assistance to anyone believed to be here illegally to:
· Emergency medical services
· Emergency temporary shelter
· Transportation to the border.
We need to challenge the current interpretation of the XIV Amendment in Court, a well-organized, well-financed challenge seeking to eliminate “anchor babies”. We need to severely fine and/or prosecute employers found guilty of knowingly using illegal alien help. We need hard time for smuggling, and manufacturing and/or distribution of falsified legal identification documents…hard time, not Fed time.
We need to increase the technological abilities of the INS and the Border Patrol, and improve their efficiency.
I think we should offer incentives to American manufacturing firms looking to set up shop overseas, to build in Mexico, and not China. Mexico needs to co-operate with some internal reforms, and by relaxing some laws. If we are about to help a nation grow economically, I want it to be the one right next door to me, not the one who has nukes trained on me.
We should also bring back the Bracero program, it’s a win-win.
But here is my own personal dichotomy, and generally speaking, the place where we become a bipolar nation. We support the idea of deporting the millions, but can’t bear the sight of the few being deported. We are today, as we have always been, a gentle, generous people.
So what to do?
I think that there must be a way to give a period of time for those who wish to try and obtain legal status, to do so, and if that individual is found to be an asset to the country, has spent his stay in the nation working, not breaking laws, setting roots, and otherwise being a model member of the community, we need to give them special consideration, and try thinking out of the box for a kinder solution.
The rest must go home and get in line to come back.
BUT…I also think that beyond that very small window of opportunity, any individual caught in the U.S. illegally should be deported, and not allowed to return to this country, for any reason, for life.
I want to solve the problem, not medicate the symptoms.
I think a long-term goal of US foreign policy towards Mexico should be one of mutually beneficial trade terms, and wealth creation. But I recognize that Mexico needs major reforms before we even contemplate such actions.
Meanwhile, I applaud the people of Arizona, and their State government, and to they who oppose their actions, I would like to remind them that it is up to Arizona to take care of Arizona’s problems, so don’t be standing on a street corner in Manhattan telling the people of Arizona what to do.
They don’t seem real interested in your opinion anyway.
Most of all, I think that as a nation we need to clean up our spilt sugar.
If we do, the ants will not sneak in under the sliding-glass door, because they know there’s nothing in here for them.