A project of the Center for Community Change

My Dad, the Illegal Immigrant

Who doesn’t love a good success story? Check out the op-ed in from Sunday’s LA Times about Gustavo Arellano’s family history. Its a breath of fresh air amidst the inflammatory rhetoric recently being thrown around by groups like FAIR.

Arellano describe his father’s multiple border crossings – a few of which are dramatic enough to be scenes from a movie.

My father, now a naturalized citizen, never tires of telling these stories to anyone who’ll listen — his eyes light up, he gestures wildly and a smile always cracks wide. And, frankly, neither do I. Although millions of Americans might consider Dad a repeat violator of national sovereignty, I see in his borderland adventures the pluck of the Pilgrims, the resolve of a homesteader, the type of pioneer ethos that has fueled this country for so long. Frederick Jackson Turner was wrong; the American frontier will never close, not as long as there are people like my father who were and are willing to cross deserts, stuff themselves into cars, float across water — just for the chance to establish themselves in this country and thrive.

Almost every Mexican family I know has followed the same trajectory we have: illegal entry, rough times, hard work leading to success and assimilation for the kids, with the 1986 amnesty helping mucho.

Twenty-nine years of living among illegal immigrants and their American-born children has taught me this truism. And that’s why my father’s example is crucial and I’ll retell it again and again. His story isn’t important because it’s special; it’s important because it’s the rule rather than the exception, a rule few want to believe and that therefore must be repeated as often as possible.

 

 

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