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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The American Dream: A Tale of Immigration and Deception

In the 1840’s, the Germans and the Irish were the first to feel the hatred. In the 1920’s, America moved on to Southern and Eastern Europeans. In 1965, Latin American nations had their turn. What I am aiming to say here is that groups of immigrants in the United States of Americn have never had it easy. Growing up with a father and mother that lived in poverty in Mexico until they were able to immigrate to this country in the mid 1960’s and early 1970’s, respectively, I have always been deeply fascinated by the tales of immigrant groups. The history of excluding immigrant groups in America, of barring them from entering this country, has very deep roots. Such a history includes the Immigration Act of 1924, a federal law that limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country as well as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which set up strict quotas on the number of persons who could legally enter the U.S. from Latin American nations, and most new Mexican migration to the U.S.

            Again, I’ve been thinking a lot about the tales of immigrant groups lately, especially as I plan and lay out my options for internships and grants for the summer. One such grant I am extremely interested in pursuing is the opportunity to work for a nonprofit group that focuses on a particular social justice issue. As I look further into a career as a lawyer, I have a strong desire to work for a nonprofit law firm that specializes in cases dealing with immigration this summer and so much of that desire comes from years of listening to a story of my father’s.

            When my Dad was sixteen years old, he came to this country with falsified documents, pretending to be his uncle’s son, an uncle who was already an American citizen. A false birth certificate typed by a secretary in my dad’s small town whom his uncle had bribed, adjusted my father’s year of birth from 1947 to 1949 in order to make the American government believe that my father was the same age as my uncle’s deceased son who’s identity my father was assumung. After setting this deception in motion, my father was able to sneak past the barrier imposed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and settle into the American promised land.

In his first few years in America, my father worked at a meat packaging plant in Omaha, Nebraska where the little boy from Mexico grew into a man who could endure cold, harsh American winters. After saving a good deal of money, my father moved to California in the early 1970’s where he met my mother, a girl from a town ten miles away from the ranch he grew up on in Mexico. They were married in 1975, had three children, and together, my hardworking parents saved enough money to move their Mexican family to a two story home in the suburbs.

But because of the deception that set my father’s life in America into motion, my father was never able to fully appreciate the beauty of his rags to riches tale. For nearly forty years, my father lived in fear that the government would learn of the falsified documents, tear his family apart, and deport him back to Mexico. For forty years, my father felt guilty and ashamed and suffered from depression, which he kept hidden from my siblings and I. It was not until one year ago that my father finally decided to take the test and become a US Citizen which lifted the burden off his shoulders.  He passed the citizenship examination with flying colors but the story of all those years of inner turmoil has certainly stuck with me. The story of an immigrant man living the American Dream who constantly fears that the dream will be taken away from him is something I cannot easily forget. I believe it was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country.” Well it took my father a little more than five years to learn English and even after forty years in this country, he still can’t speak it entirely well but he did manage to make a beautiful life for his family, and despite his deception, I couldn’t be prouder of my father.

 I’m sure there are several men and women out there like my father, men and women who are in this country illegally, living here in America for years and years and yet miles away from the path to citizenship. This summer, I would love to have the opportunity to listen to the stories of these people. I will try my hardest to work alongside a pro bono law firm to review cases and listen to the stories of these immigrants. I certainly know, better than most people that, given the chance, immigrants, immigrants like my father can do amazing things if they are only given the opportunity.






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