When I heard President Obama discuss his executive order on immigration, I thought of my grandmother.
Growing up, I did not know that my father’s mother was undocumented. I did not understand that her place in my life was tenuous or ever in jeopardy.
My father was born in the United States, and so were his two brothers. She was all my father and his brothers had against the cruel Iowa winters, against homelessness, against the entire world.
Her husband, their father, died when their three boys were still young. She raised them by herself, and sent two sons off to serve in the U.S. military.
I would have moved heaven and earth for my grandmother. I would have never let the authorities take her away from me and my family.
Fortunately, she was granted citizenship in 1986 when President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act that year. But too many people like my grandmother have been deported from the United States, and Obama has deported more people than any previous president before him.
He’s moving in the right direction now, though, with his executive order, which will allow parents who are here without documentation to stay if their children are U.S. citizens. Such an order would have helped my grandmother, and it will help about 5 million people living in the shadows.
Imagine if you lived your life in daily fear that the people you love most in the world could be deported. They leave for a 20-minute errand, and that’s it. They’re gone. Your father, your mother, your grandfather or your grandmother––snatched up and taken away, torn apart from you and the rest of your family.
No one should have to live with that kind of fear.
We should give people credit for working here, living here, for taking care of their families and for being members of our community without receiving any benefits. And we should go further than Obama and give these people a clear path to citizenship––a path that doesn’t take years and years to complete.
In honor of my grandmother, I ask you to see the humanity of the people who are here working hard and taking care of their families.
They should not be torn apart from the ones they love and care for. And they deserve a chance to be citizens.
Angie Trudell Vasquez is a poet and activist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright Angie Trudell Vasquez. Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images