Before voting to deport all illegal aliens, remember there is an illegal alien in most of us
In responding to my blog post about my parents’ strong views on this election, someone suggested that my mom and dad should have negative views of illegal aliens because they waited for more than a decade to enter the United States legally after World War II. On the contrary, my parents have compassion for illegal aliens because they survived precisely because they were illegal aliens for many years in the 1930s and 1940s.
My paternal grandparents operated an illegal restaurant in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, because as foreigners they weren’t allowed to operate a business. It was the only way to earn a living. After the war broke out, they only escaped deportation by the Germans because they pretended to be tourists and relied on the extraordinary help of a local Muslim official to escape into Italian-controlled Montenegro.
My mom and grandmother survived because they had forged papers that helped them pass through Nazi-occupied France, and my uncle avoided deportation to Auschwitz by bribing a camp commandant to remove him and his stepfather from the deportation list. When my mom and her family walked across the Swiss border on a dark night in October 1942, it was the second time they’d tried to make the crossing. For whatever reason their forged certificates and a doctor’s note about my grandmother’s poor health saved them from being returned to France because they were illegal aliens.
My parents were illegal aliens several times over in order to find work, acquire housing, and survive persecution. While they understand the concerns about having secure borders to stop drug trafficking and violent criminal activity, they have a keen appreciation for the plight of Hondurans, Salvadorians, Mexicans and others seeking the means to support their families and avoid persecution and violence.
Today many Americans whose ancestors came from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland and Russia strongly support deporting illegal aliens because their grandparents and great grandparents entered America legally. This is a terribly naïve view. Many thousands of Russian Jews, Irish Catholics, and German Lutherans passed through Ellis Island under a variety of immigration statutes and quotas. However, many of these people were carrying forged passports or had paid agents illegal sums in order to gain entry under America’s various quota systems. Many of us are the offspring of illegal aliens. We are simply fortunate that the details of our ancestors’ entry into America aren’t well documented and that our skin is white.
When I see Mexican workers in a restaurant, I see my family. When I read about a Columbian family scrambling across the southwestern desert, I see my family. If Europe hadn’t been separated from America by an ocean, my family would have scaled walls, waded rivers and paid any price to be an illegal alien in the United States.