Lou and My Mom

Annette - New York, New York
Entered on December 3, 2008

I believe that Lou Dobbs must meet my mom.

I’ve come to this conclusion only reluctantly, a measure of last resort, to stop his nightly venom against undocumented immigrants.

For a while, I had fantasies of appearing on his show myself. I would effortlessly slay the hate monster, using my honed skills of policy analysis and irrefutable logic to finally convince Lou that no human being is illegal.

But I know that in real life, I will falter. The word “illegal” leaves me raw and vulnerable; it’s just too personal. My professional voice will abandon me, my brain will shut down, and I will be left stuttering in hurt and anger.

So instead, I will deploy the ultimate weapon, my mom. She will stride into his studio, as irresistible a force now as she was 35 years ago, when she and I came to America without papers. She conquered years of deportation notices and immigration agents at our door. Being evicted and thrown into the streets. Working as a live-in domestic for uncaring families. Biking to three jobs in the northeastern winter snows. Getting her GED and going to college undercover.

And always: me by her side, a silent sentry, a child trying to be a guardian angel.

For the first ten years in this country, I rarely spoke. I was busy watching my mother’s face for impending stress and scanning the environment for early signs of danger. Later, like many children of immigrants and single moms, I was driven by her sacrifice. I focused on studying and achieving and in the process created one of those “improbable journeys” that, in fact, constitute the norm in this country.

We rarely talk about it, my mom and I. But both of us bear the scars of America, of years of economic struggle and the constant near-panic that only lack of papers can bring. People love our flair and praise us for how far we’ve come. But I wonder, do they see the scars?

I should say that we are not given to whining; we are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish here, with a lot of joy and an amazing community of friends. The point is simply that America needs to fully, deeply embrace its immigrants, whether they have papers or not. The policy solutions will flow from there.

Which brings me back to Lou.

I predict that Lou will be smitten by my mom’s dazzling beauty. He will beg her to marry him and do bus tours across the country advocating open borders. But if per chance he requires more convincing, she will sit down in front of him, take his hands into hers, look into his soul, and patiently explain to him the basic facts of life:

That we are all created equal, immigrant and non-immigrant alike. That we all carry our dreams, some of them modest, others audacious and visionary. That those dreams have built America and will continue to build America, long after Lou’s hate has burned itself out and left him spent and hollow.

Come to think of it, I take it back. My mom has battled more than enough of America’s demons in her life and deserves to finally take a break. And actually, the same goes for me. Lou will just have to make his journey back to humanity by himself.