That is what one of the speakers said at the Immigration Fairness rally Monday at Suhr Park.
Please don’t stop reading this column. I almost feel that words are worthless — a horrible things for a columnist to say — because before you even read further you will have formed your opinion and either be thinking “yes!” or “hogwash” (or something even worse).
But all I have is words, so I will use them. One of the words (actually two words) I have heard often is “illegal aliens.” It makes me picture creatures from outer space with three eyes and six legs and of course we don’t want that around here.
But “illegal aliens” are people. I went to see one of their children recently. She was my student.
Let me tell you a little bit about her: bright smile, always reading a book, asking questions when she doesn’t understand something, polite to a fault.
The teacher-student relationship usually ends when the bell rings: students go home to their houses and I go home to mine.
I broke that barrier and went to the Jefferson Street trailer park, where my student lives.
Have you ever been there? It was my first time and it made me feel like my modest home is a castle. No one is getting rich working at Corso’s and living there. The trailers are small, close together, and, from the outside, most are ramshackle.
So when you think of “illegal aliens” who should be ousted from our country, think of my student whose mother was seized from work and bused to Michigan, where she still is jailed awaiting a court appearance. Think of my student and her two younger siblings. Think of the children who live in that trailer park, playing outside or in the nearby grassy area, some with parents who were recently forcibly removed from the place they work (not earning enough for any luxurious living, that’s for sure).
Those of you who still want to think of their mothers and fathers as “illegal aliens,” think again. Those of you who believe you are different and deserve different things because your skin is lighter or your native language is English, think again, because we are bigger than that. There are no “illegal people” and “legal people” — we are all people.
It’s about justice, not politics. And justice is not telling people there is a company meeting with doughnuts and then rounding them up with guns and dogs and tying their hands.
Those of you who voted for Trump, did you vote for that? Do you really think those people working at Corso’s for long hours and going home to hot trailers are taking anything away from you? Or are they enriching our culture, our schools, with their presence?
My student explained to me about her quinceañera. Her chocolate flan is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. She and her family ask nothing of us except a chance to live a good life.
My parents received that chance when they came here as refugees from Europe after World War II after being thought of as lesser human beings. My mother’s father was separated from the family during the war and she never saw him again.
We are America. We are better than that. They are not “illegal aliens.” They are people who came here for a better life, to work hard and send their children to our schools. Think about my smiling, hard-working student and her little brother and sister.
It’s about justice, not politics.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.