You probably saw Super Bowl LI, so there is a good chance you caught at least a glimpse of 84 Lumber’s Super Bowl commercials. Each was a portion of the “journey.” All together they were “The Entire Journey.” If you missed it or have not seen the whole thing, here it is:
As a first generation Mexican-American, I could relate to this at a gut level. No, our family did not walk for miles, pay a coyote, travel in a boxcar, or swim a river. We came over as “legal” aliens. My parents came in search of a better life for themselves and their children. The cost was losing day-to-day contact with family, friends, and everything about their native land. They came with nothing. They worked hard. They accomplished much. They set a good example, which for the most part I have followed. I now have hard-working children of my own. We are multi-generational Americans now, though still significantly bicultural.
My parents, siblings and I lived the immigration experience. We have feelings and opinions about the two countries that help define who we are, and about the immigration process itself. We believe in the sovereignty of the two nations. We believe it is right to obey their laws, including immigration laws. We believe in doing things the right way.
However, my humanitarian instincts tell me there are plenty of special immigration circumstances. Refugees flee oppression and physical danger, seeking asylum and help, with no way to go through legal channels. Families bring their loved ones for emergency medical care. The USA has a history and tradition of welcoming such people with open arms.
But this has not always been uniformly so. There is also a documented history of hostility towards immigrants, and of deportation. Several presidents have ordered such deportations in the past. One such policy was in place during the time of my parents’ immigration in 1954, derogatorily called “Operation Wetback.” But it is important to put all of that in the historical perspective of post-World War II, post-Korean War, Cold War America. One can imagine our entire country suffering from PTSD, trying to recover from traumas and fears. One can imagine misdirected finger-pointing and laying of blame. It was a priority to make jobs available for American citizens. These things may not excuse the immigration policies of the day, but they help to explain and understand them.
We are now in the midst of another immigration policy crisis. Our country is trying to find balance and common ground under a new administration. Certainly, most of us want to be that welcoming America symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, where people of every race, color, and creed can melt in the pot. We want to be humanitarian. We also want to be safe. We want jobs. We want fair trade. We want our budget to balance. Unfortunately, we are making it difficult to find that balance and common ground by willfully polarizing our political views. Nobody is walking in anyone else’s shoes. Everyone is wearing narrow-minded blinders. Everyone is applying their own brand of linear logic to multi-dimensional issues. (I am purposely generalizing.) At this moment, there is certainly more problem than there is solution.
I am not proposing a solution myself. I plan just to keep trying to do the next right thing like my parents and teachers taught me.
I have also written a Science Fiction book that parallels the subject. It is about an immigrant who also arrived in 1954, the same year my parents did. His name is Mat. He came at a great personal cost. He was mistreated when he first arrived, but he persevered and made a significant contribution to society. The book is called Mission 51, and I invite you to follow the project here.
“Immigration” is a complex of issues brought into sharp focus by our new administration. I believe We the People will gradually sort them out. I believe in our essential goodness and the power of the people. We will make it right.