My Immigrant Mom

All the recent talk about immigrants makes me think about my mother. She married my father and emigrated from England in 1930. She lived in the US, mostly in California, until her death in 1988. She went home to England to visit family on only two occasions.

She chose never to become a citizen. When we asked her why, she would say that each time she started the required American history class, she’d get so mad at what the teachers said about England when they were teaching about the Revolutionary War that she would quit the class. I don’t believe that was the real reason, but that’s what she told us.

In any case, every year, in January, she had to trek to the post office to reregister her address to keep her green card valid. She found that humiliating. I don’t know if the people at the post office made remarks or if the humiliation was self-generated, but it was there.

It does seem odd to me that a person could live 58 years in a place and still be considered an outlander—even by her own child. Yes, it was an unresolved issue for me as a child. Sometimes I was proud that my mother was special because she was different, and sometimes I wished that she was like all the other mothers. I got over it.

I’ve know many immigrants over the years, but I’ve only known three people who I knew were here illegally—my English cousin, his wife, and their child. They lived here for five years on an expired tourist visa until a family crisis called them home.

I don’t have any great insight into the current political discussion about immigrants other than that I think we should all relax and think about the reality of immigration in the US. The problem with the political parties is that one says that up is down and the other says that down is up. There is a reality out there for those who care to research it instead of having fear fed to them by politicians and pundits.

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