LISTENING TO young Karla Ortíz addressing the DNC, talking about her fears that any day her immigrant parents might be deported, brought back some painful memories from my childhood. I had those fears. Not every day, but there were enough of those days to leave a mark. Both of my parents came to this country without papers. They were wetbacks. Mojados. When we were in our South Texas community, one family among hundreds who had family members like my parents, undocumented. But every summer, when we went up north to work in the field of North Dakota, Wisconsin or Minnesota, inevitably there would come the day when we’d look up from the rows of sugar beets — or onions or cucumbers — and we’d see the green government vehicles, and we’d see the men in green uniforms exit and make their way from family to family, checking on their immigration status.
The reality was that my parents were in no danger of being deported. They had been in this country for such a long time that for all intents and purposes, they were considered legal residents by our government.
But I didn’t know that. Ten-year-olds don’t know the intricacies of immigration law. All I knew then was that these men in green, with guns on their hips, had the power to take my parents away from me and my siblings and transport them back to Mexico, leaving us to fend for ourselves.
THAT’S WHAT I knew. That’s what I feared. That was my nightmare all those many years ago. That children today, 60 years later, are still facing the same fears, is our national nightmare. Our national shame.