She holds a torch to welcome the tired, the sick, the hungry. At least she did. Now this shining beacon of hope is dulled by prejudice, fear, and greed. She is tired of all the squabbling. Yes, we need to do background checks, make sure those applying for admission to the finest country on earth have no terrorist designs on anyone in our multi-race culture. Those crossing our southern border without permission are often, bright, daring, ambitious and terrified.
They want to belong to a country where they can prosper, where their children will be born as American citizens. A chance at the American dream is often a death-defying act, a terror-filled ride in a van with no windows to the American border. Coyotes (smugglers) often drop them in the desert with little more than what they are wearing. If they make it across the border they must assimilate, learn English, pay taxes and become citizens. None of which is easy. Let me tell you a story…
The American Dream – One Frightening Mile at a Time
He is the pied piper of kids. They gravitate to him. Little kids, big kids, they all want to be next to Jose. This quiet man guides, loves, stands up for his beliefs and constantly smiles. Not a grin; a gentle, kind, and wise smile. Perhaps most important, is the way he listens. Really listens, does not judge, just listens, offering advice only if asked for it.
This relatively young man, whose “old” spirit shines in his eyes, is living proof that the American Dream is alive. That extraordinary people exist and can become a beautiful stitch in the fabric of America.
Jose’s “Coming to America” story began when he and his two brothers were small enough to lie like possums on the floorboards of a car, his mother, and uncle hidden under blankets in the trunk. Every peso they had, every dream, and breath they drew, was in the hands of a Coyote, a smuggler of desperate human beings.
For three days there were no rest stops, no roadside diners, only an anonymous, dingy, room for a few hours in the middle of the night. The family stepped noiselessly; listening for a sound, a word that they had been discovered. They would be sent back to a life they could no longer endure.
Finally, inside the United States, the ordeal was not yet over. The family lived on the edge of society, not quite fitting in, never feeling quite safe. Jose’s determined mother, Maria, made tough decisions. Education outweighed the fear of deportation. The kids went to school, easily picking up English, while she worked a minimum wage job.
Maria is a good person, people liked her, gave her a kind nod when they knew that ICS would show up at work. That meant she would stay at home, missing a day of wages that the family sorely needed. She so wanted to fit in, wanted her kids to fit in; that struggling became her normal state of mind.
Jose recalls his kind, fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Larson, bringing Christmas presents for the whole family. That was the first time Jose really felt included in the fabric of this country. He did well in school, graduated college, and in 1987 found a hero, a champion. President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to those immigrants who had followed the rules and proved they were good citizens.
Peter Robinson, a former Reagan speechwriter, told NPR, “It was in Ronald Reagan’s bones — it was part of his understanding of America — that the country was fundamentally open to those who wanted to join us here.”
Jose clearly remembers raising his right hand, feeling his heart skip a beat, and taking a sacred oath to become a legal American citizen. He says it was one of the most amazing days of his life. His wife, Bonnie, and their two-year-old son, sat beside him. Adorable little Joey hugged everyone who took the oath. The memory still makes Jose laugh. Joey, now “Joey” is at the top of his class at university.
Raising his hand, to finally say, “I am American” was as precious as breath for Jose. Before that day he had to stand aside and watch as others voted, always feeling separated from the country he longed to be part of. He has never failed to vote since he became a citizen.
Jose helped raise goats when he was small, loved them, and hated finding them on the table. Today he has two goats – their destiny – to keep the weeds down in the pasture. They would be invited to dinner before they became dinner at this house!
Reflecting on his life, where he came from, and what he has accomplished, he told me, “I can’t believe that this is really real, that my life, is my life. I am so fortunate.”
Jose is humble. Being fortunate has little to do with his success. It is clear that he did it. He is the master of his own life. He owns his own business, and is a great provider for his family, both financially and emotionally. He is a proud, accomplished, legal American. He is part of the fabric that makes this country great. Connie Timpson/Author/Speaker/Group Facilitator
A Reagan Legacy: Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants: NPR News