Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from The Washington Post, carried a heavy secret: He lived in the U.S. undocumented for most of his life. His grandparents brought him to this country legally at age 5, but he never got proper legal status. As of July 15, 2014, Jose had been arrested and was being detained by the Texas Border Patrol.
Jose came out in the national news, and then he decided to make a documentary about his journey and his fight to get rational immigration reform on the books in the United States.
That’s when he met a self-proclaimed “hardcore Republican” farmer named Lawrence. Lawrence has a very different perspective from much of his party when it comes to immigration. Jose received a handwritten letter in the mail recently. It was from Lawrence, postmarked March 27, 2014, from Birmingham, Ala. It reads:
I realize that you have your story, and I have had some part in it. This, however, is something that I haven’t had the opportunity to tell you. You might say that this is part of my side of the story.
I could put more feeling in this orally. Perhaps on occasion will arise when I can do so. I used part of what I’m going to tell you, when I recently met with my U.S. Representative.
Please excuse my handwriting, punctuation, and spelling. This is the best that an old red-neck farm boy from Cullman County, Alabama can do.
If any of this is of any value to you, feel free to use it.
What follows is that part:
When I start to leave Paco’s and Madai’s (Paco’s wife) house after visiting them, or they start to leave my house after visiting me; their children are saying, “bye bye papa, bye bye papa.” Finally one day, I asked Paco: “Paco, what are your children saying, what do they mean they tell me bye bye papa.”
He said they are saying “bye bye abuelo,” or to translate, “bye bye grandfather.” This made me feel ever so great. My heart was filled with joy knowing that they thought of me in this way.
Paco told me a video his dad sent up from Guatamala, recently. The video was about his dad’s 73rd birthday and the celebration that they had for him. In the video he told me hello, of course, but that’s not really what I want to get at.
Paco told me that as their four children watched the video; they asked him: “Who is this man?” He said the told them:” That’s your abuelo, your grandfather.” He said they then asked him, “Como Papa?” To translate: “Like Papa?”
“Like Papa,” this too made me proud that they would make such a comparison. Joy filled my heart once more.
And then, suddenly, my joy turned to sadness, and my eyes filled with tears.
I had realized that Paco’s children don’t know their own grandfather. All they’ve got is a poor substitute.
They don’t know the joy that they can bring to a grandfather and the joy he can bring to them. They don’t know the pleasure that’s shared by sitting on that grandfather’s knee and talking to him.
I ask: Why can’t Paco take their children to Guatamala to visit an aging grandfather; and then return
here to his home in the U.S.? Why can’t Madai take their children to Guatamala to visit an aging grandmother; and then returnhere to her home in the U.S.? Why can’t you, Jose, return to the Philippines to visit an aging mother; and return here to your home in the U.S.?
The hour grows late. The hour grows late for Paco’s dad, for Madai’s mom, for your mom, and yes even for me. Enough of the delay, it’s time for results.
The cause we share it not a
right or left cause. It’s a right orwrong cause. It’s a cause in which you and I agree.
I have to end with a question. My Latino friends, my Latino family: How could I not be for them in the struggle?
However, there’s one thing further that I will say. You and I may be poles apart politically. We may be poles apart on life style. We may be poles apart on religion. We may be poles apart on other facets of life.
Always remember, though, that we’re together on something far more important than the differences we have. We’re united in friendship.
I’ve taken enough of your time. Thanks for letting me share a part of my side of the story.
May God be with you.
If Lawrence can be this reasonable, surely more people can. They should hear his story.