I come from a pretty far right leaning family, the kind of family that post a lot of Tea Party Facebook memes. When you are a left leaner like me for the most part you just learn to stay out of it, but about once a year a family member will post something about everyone's favorite scapegoat the "illegal immigrant". Then more of their friends will jump on the bandwagon and after sitting on my hands for a day or so it will just become too much for me and I'll have to respond, and my response will usually go something like this.
For those of you who don't know, while my father came to this country legally he ended up staying illegally. After meeting my mom and falling in love they decided to get married and got pregnant with me. It became pretty obvious to my parents that he needed to become a citizen but if you think that's some easy stunt to pull off, you are kidding yourself. Even after marrying a citizen, getting American Citizenship involves a lot of money and tons of hoops. For a few months my parents went back to Mexico hoping that they could work the system better from there but it was horrible. I was so sick that my mother had to pawn her photography equipment to buy medicine and she was pregnant with my baby sister and homesick for her family. Eventually she came back to the states and my father followed. The only reason he got his citizenship was my mom went to the office of one of the Arizona
Senators (personally I like to believe it was John McCain but it's been so many years she can't remember now) and begged him to help her push the paper work forward. She was successful. By this time my parents had already had a third daughter and my father had joined the US Military. Did you know that, that you can actually join the US military even if you aren't a citizen. Well folks, you can! So my father was in the military and we were living in Kansas and my parents had three daughters. There were things my father loved about the military, the order, the guns, the training. There were things he hated, going overseas away from family, the food, and no one liked living in cold Kansas. So after a few years he left the military and became a mortician but he liked the military enough that he stayed a member of the reserves, all be it in Texas where he didn't have to deal with freezing rain.
The reserves were all the best parts of the army. You got to train one weekend a months with other folks who you loved, you got to play with guns, and you got to have an actual job the rest of the month that paid good money. He loved it. It made me nervous though and I was relieved when in the first gulf war he wasn't called up. Then George W. Bush was elected, 9-11 happened, and we found ourselves in a two front war in the middle east and my dad who at this point was fifty found himself called up to serve in Iraq. It was a stressful time for me but also a time when I got more letters from him then I'd probably gotten in the previous ten years. He told about moving big guns and about keeping a Mexican flag in his truck. He told me about how he related to the Arabs better because he was darker, soft spoken, and old and that made him seem more trust worthy. Somewhere in the middle of his tour his arm got really badly hurt. I'm not really sure what happened. He has never to this day told me a plausible story but he did stay in country with his platoon and his messed up arm because he didn't want to leave until everyone else was coming home as well. But the man is old and his arm would not heal and finally his commander insisted that he had to come state side for surgery and it was at this time that they finally retired him from the reserves. As his daughter I'm really unclear on what it was like. His letter were always upbeat, focused on my one kid at the time and on a love of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. Now, even years later it isn't really something he talks about but I do know that when he came home my sisters went to see him and he was a carrying around a duffle bag full of cash and a gun and we all just sort of went, "Oh," because who does that? That is not normal behavior. But for someone who just came home from a war zone maybe that seems normal.
My dad has his problems but he has been a contributing member of this country for over 34 years. He has seven children, all the ones old enough to go to college have and have graduated with degrees. We all married pretty well, we all contribute to society, and within all my extended family it is my husband and I who probably will end up paying more taxes than anyone else. Sometimes I wonder when people go off on "illegal immigrants" what do they really want. Are they just looking for some random group to go off on, or do they expect an apology from me and do they want one from my dad. Sure maybe my path here to this country wasn't exactly kosher but do we need to compare test scores, transcripts, tax papers to find out who has been more productive, who contributes more, who is building a country and who is not in order to justify me living here or maybe why if that's a standard that you think matters, you don't deserve to. I think each person deserves to be judged on the merits of their own personal life, regardless of what group or country they came from. How many of us can actually claim to come from families that have never had a mooch in them, or someone who broke the law, or someone who was just born at the wrong place or the wrong time? Should we be saddled with that forever? Are we criminals because we want something better for our lives? I hope that you will take the time to look at each person as an individual and not use a few people's bad behavior to tarnish the reputation of an entire group of people.
So on this Veteran's Day I'd like to say thank you to a dad I love, for his service to this country, but also for coming to this country in the first place and giving my siblings and I more opportunities then we ever could have found anywhere else. May we always live our lives in ways that will make you proud and justify the sacrifices you have made for us. PS Mom, I love you too :)