A few months ago, (May 7, 2006), Grafted and I were part of an audience for a Town Hall Meeting at our local PBS station studio for Latino USA dealing with the current immigration problem.  Grafted Latinonow_1invited me, and I’m always up for a hot, controversial, politically-saturated, emotionally fueled debate! So, naturally, I said yes! You can click the link above for more information and even download the program and listen to it or watch it on your computer!

If you look real close, you can see Grafted and I right behind the Archbishop’s Head. Yep…there she is in a white shirt and I’m right next to her in a pink jacket!  Pretty cool, eh? We had the distinct pleasure of looking at the back of the heads of the Archbishop Jose Gomez, D.A. King, Maria Hinojosa, Lee Teran, Secretary Henry Cisneros, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Macarena Hernandez and Richard Langlois. Their credentials are posted at the website above. But they all played an interesting role in the conversation because their professions enabled them to be influential players in this hot debate.

It was quite an experience. And after about an hour of (sometimes non-) friendly banter between the panelists, they were unable to come to an agreeable conclusion regarding the question, "What do we DO with all the illegal aliens??". There were many subtopics brought up during the question – equating the battle illegal aliens are fighting with the civil rights movement for blacks, the "equal rights" battle for homosexuals…and I couldn’t help but keep thinking about, "BUT what about unalienable rights for our unborn Americans?!?!" Of course, I didn’t dare bring THAT up. They’d have kicked me out for sure.

So Grafted and I sat and listened and left more frustrated than before. At least I did. We ended up bolting afterwards because we were in a hurry to get dinner before all the decent restaurants closed. You’d think in a city as big as San Antonio, it’d be easy to get a good meal after 10pm. Thankfully, we breezed into P.F. Changs RIGHT before 10 and our waiter was most accommodating. But had we been 5 minutes later, we’d have been stuck eating at Denny’s or IHOP. Blech! But that’s all besides the point!

Anyway, again, I left more confused than ever. It’s hard to know what the right thing is to do for them – but I don’t think it’s shipping them all back. I don’t think it’s throwing them all in jail. I don’t think it’s giving them amnesty or immediate citizenship. I do have strong feelings about English being our national language. I do get frustrated when I have to pay an extra couple hundred bucks each year on my property taxes which go directly to the local hospitals to offset the cost of illegal immigrants taking advantage of emergency medical care. We already pay income tax for federal programs for health care, but I also have to pay an additional special Bexar County Property Tax!?!? NOT FAIR that my husband has to work so some illegal can come into our city and use our medical resources at our expense. I also have some issues with the hiring of illegal hands when there are plenty of capable LEGAL Americans available to the do work. But, on the flipside…one MAJOR problem with American’s is that they don’t WANT to do the hard labor!

A few yrs ago we had to put a new roof on our house. You will believe me when I say that not one white man showed up to actually do the WORK. Our roofer was a white man though. He told me a group of Mexicans would show up and in ONE DAY my roof would be finished. And boy – was he right! Those Mexicans got up there and in the month of JULY (which is a very hot month in San Antonio) stripped the roof off, put a new roof on, and completely cleaned up my yard. By 6pm that night, it was finished. And it is a beautiful roof!! But our roofer said that he could not find a white person to work for him. He had 1, that’s right ONE, white employee the year before and he lasted a few days but he ended up saying he’d rather flip burgers at McD’s. The physical labor was too hard.

When I was little we lived on a farm with my grandparents. My Grandpa hired Guillermo to come work on the farm rock-walling everything. The huge 3000sf home Grampa had built by hand. A 2ft tall rock wall that lined the perimeter of Grampa’s 10 acres. The trailer we had lived in while Grampa was building the house – which became Grampa’s workshop. The little gazebo sitting area we grew grape vines across. Guillermo was a hard worker. I remember that he didn’t speak English. But I remember his kind, dark eyes that looked at my brother and sister and I with such tenderness and love. I remember him laughing at us when, once, he took us out to pasture to look for more rocks. George and I tried to pick up a big rock – which was WAAY too big for us! But we were gonna get it in the wagon. And I just remember Guillermo laughing at us and his smile was so big and bright and engaging! I remember a time when George yelled and I looked down and screamed and then I remember a dead rattlesnake being hung over a fence post – without a head attached to it’s long body. Yep…it was Guillermo who ran up from the barn and in a swift movement used a shovel to decapitate it and then hung it on the fence line. I remember feeling very safe in that moment.

Oh and I remember him calling me, "Senorita" and "Mama" and how he never really knew what we were saying but that he just laughed a lot with us! He let us pal around with him on that farm all the time – we were never in his way. He lived there on the farm with us for however long it was.

I also know that Guillermo was an illegal alien. I know he sent EVERY PENNY my Grampa paid him back to Mexico to his family. I don’t know whatever happened to him, but he was one of the nicest men I’ve ever known. He probably doesn’t remember me, if he’s even alive. I wonder if his wife or children know anything about us. It would be so neat if the Lord would somehow connect our families again. I know it’s not outside of His ability!

I’m so glad that was my first experience with an Illegal Mexican. I’m glad that I have known them for who they are: people desiring a better life for their families, willing to work HARD and do what needs to be done to make it happen. Isn’t that why we are all here to begin with??  Sure, there are probably some really shady characters that are bringing in drugs, prostitutes, murder, gangs, etc. But I don’t believe that’s the majority of them.

Other than that – I have no solid opinion on illegal aliens. But I wanted to journal my thoughts on this before I read Santos’ book.