Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I am heartbroken to see the tension and division brought about by the current debate on the immigration issues. Everyone has an opinion, but no reasonable solution seems to be forthcoming. In the interim, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Hispanic Americans like myself find ourselves embroiled in the debate by coworkers, friends and strangers. Why do people expect Hispanic Americans to take sides, like we are expected to defend our "Americanism" by decrying the flow of immigration, legal or illegal. I don't see Italian Americans, Irish Americans, or other "Americans" having to defend their beliefs or demonstrate their patriotism. I don't pretend to know the answers to this highly sensitive debate, but here is what I do know. When I see the Mexican gardener, or laborer, I am reminded of the face of my grandfather, who came to this country, legally or illegally I do not know, but became a resident alien, served our country in the war effort during WWII, and raised his daughters and sons to believe in the American dream. One of my sisters married to a descendant of Mexican origin, who worked in the fields alongside his family while completing his education, and later rose through the ranks of the Police Department to become the first Hispanic Police Chief . It is this same work ethic instilled by my grandparents and parents that enabled me to rise to one of the most esteemed positions in my company. It is that same American dream that enabled one of my sons to graduate from M.I.T., one of the most prestigous universities in the country and the other to pursue his dreams of filmmaking in the Cinema School at the University of Southern California. We owe all of this success to the dreams of our grandparents or great grandparents who came to this country in search of opportunity. This is what I see in the faces of those who are coming to this country to earn an honest living. Rather than taking sides why aren't we utilizing that good old American ingenuity and developing reasonable solutions to the immigration problem? It won't be solved by telling people to go back to where they came from. They aren't here on a vacation. Necessity has forced their presence and our style of living in this country welcomes them with open arms. Many of these recent immigrants are doing the work we won't do. And like our ancestors before us, they are the parents of future Americans who will be valuable contributors to American society. Many will become doctors, medical researchers, business owners and entreprenuers. After all, my story is not unusual. It is the story of thousands of my generation and Mexican origin. But it is not the compelling story that people who want to use the immigration debate as a mask for their racism want to hear. They are more comfortable with the stories of drug dealers and coyotes. It is time we put the face of the real America on the front page and it is all of us, be it brown, white or black, and work together to find a reasonable solution to a compelling issue.