A major U.S. newspaper has asked immigrant readers to relate their immigration stories and experiences and, in particular, how they have been affected by illegal immigration---in 250 words or fewer.
As one of those immigrants---with a story to tell---I have responded.
However, 250 words are not sufficient to fully tell such a story. Fortunately, here at The Huffington Post I have the opportunity to expand on my thoughts and recollections.
Recollections that start on a rainy morning in April 1957 at New York's Idlewild airport, when a bright-eyed, overjoyed 17-year-old youth stepped off a KLM airplane and joined the tens of millions of immigrants who have made their way, legally, to the "promised land."
Today, 53 years later, I have fulfilled every bit of my "American dream" beyond my wildest imagination, including having had the honor of serving my adopted country for 20 years both in the enlisted ranks and as a commissioned officer.
I will never forget the incredible benefits, blessings and freedoms I have enjoyed since coming to America.
But neither will I forget the powerful attraction America held for me and how such an attraction may be almost impossible to resist for those who live under desperate economic, social or political conditions all around the world---especially those living in sheer squalor literally footsteps away from opportunity and hope.
It is therefore that---while not condoning illegal immigration---I empathize with those undocumented immigrants who have been in our country for many years, who are law-abiding and productive members of our communities, who have raised fine families and who have become in every respect---except for a piece of paper---loyal Americans. Many of these young men have even managed to join and serve in our armed forces and some of them have made the ultimate sacrifice for a country that is not yet theirs.
Yes, we must solve our "immigration problem," but we must not go back to the days when our government forcefully relocated and interned approximately 110,000 loyal Japanese Americans, because of fear and hysteria.
We must not go back the days when the accusations of a powerful politician and his cronies resulted in thousands of innocent and loyal Americans being imprisoned, losing their jobs, denied employment, harassed, humiliated--their lives ruined---because of fear and hysteria.
Yes, we must solve the problem, but we must totally reject those who, today, would compile lists of men, women and children---and don't forget those "anchor babies"---that would result in human beings being taken from their homes, humiliated, interrogated, arrested, imprisoned, uprooted, separated from their loved ones, to "be immediately deported," especially since "[s]ome of the women on the list are pregnant at this time and steps should be taken for immediate deportation." *
We must totally reject the methods used by the would-be "list makers." Methods such as to "observe these individuals in our neighborhoods, driving our streets, working in our stores, attending our schools and entering our public welfare buildings," and then to "spend the time and effort needed to gather information along with legal Mexican nationals who infiltrate their social networks and help us obtain the necessary information we need to add them to our list." *
I know that the America I have come to love, respect, serve and to proudly call my homeland can and will find a more humane, a more American way to deal with our "immigration problem," other than through harassment, profiling, the tearing apart of families, detention or imprisonment and through eventual cold-hearted mass deportations.
By all means, let's rationally and in a bipartisan manner reform our immigration system and, henceforth, let's more strictly, intelligently and efficiently secure our borders and enforce the resulting immigration laws.
However, in doing so let's not forget who we are and where we live. Let's not forget that we are compassionate, righteous and generous Americans living in "the land of the free and the brave."
Most of all, let's never forget that we once recited:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
* From the cover letter accompanying the Utah list of 1,300 names