The 4th & Murrieta, California’s Hate for New Americans

As you ready your house flags, don your sunscreen and set up your BBQ’s, I would love if we all reflected a bit on what it means to be an American.

For a long awhile, I admit to having never given much thought to what it means to be an American. I’ve always been one and have enjoyed all of it’s privileges and rights. After all, we are the envy of many other countries. So much so, that people will risk their lives to come here.

Think about that for a minute. How bad would it have to be for you, in your own life, to risk everything in order to get yourself to another country?

I don’t live far from Murrieta, California. For those not following the news, there are refugees from places like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, most of them children and young mothers with babies, who have risked their lives and their children’s lives because it is so very bad where they come from they seek a better life in the United States.

They’ve walked miles with only as much as they could carry. They’ve dangerously jumped on trains to hitch a ride some of the way. They’ve crossed hot and barren deserts, climbed mountains, and many have died.

Jack and Hala at the Capitol rocking it for Lupus
My children in front of the Capitol in Washington, DC.

One of these mothers was interviewed on our local news. She said her two children had no future in her village. It was nothing but poverty and crime with no way out. So she made the heart wrenching decision to attempt to make it to the United State’s border. She said she heard if they made it, they might be allowed to stay, or they might be sent back. She understood the odds. She also didn’t feel as though she was doing anything illegal as she knew, if her plan worked, she would at some point meet up with American Border Patrol.

Despite what she did know, she had no idea some Americans would be so very unwelcoming once she arrived. Screaming at her and her children as their bus approached the Murrieta processing center. Causing such havoc, the bus turned away due to security concerns.

I wonder what my ancestors thought as they made the voyage over the Atlantic to get here. They knew, once they reached the process center at the other end, they was also a chance they would be sent back. Illnesses from a sniffle to lice, could mean the difference between life and death for the family. It could also mean children separated from their parents.

My Polish ancestors were called stupid and given menial jobs upon their immigration. My Romanian ancestors had an even tougher time, called gypsies and not even trusted enough to be employed. Yet, through hard work and that ever present American dream that made them roll the dice, my Polish great-grandparents found themselves a Polish speaking area in Detroit and set up a corner store. Never learning English. My Romanian ancestors doing just as well, with my grandfather owning his own travel and insurance company after starting off, shall we say, a bit less ‘legal’ in order to make ends meet. Before his death he told us all stories of his first job…running alcohol between Windsor, Canada and Detroit, MI for none other than Al Capone.

Both were discriminated against, but I don’t remember my history class teaching us of throngs of anti-immigrant Americans attempting to block the ships and send them all back. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if they had, in fact, tried.

So as I watch these children look out the windows of federal buses, seeing screaming (predominately) white folk waving the Red, White, and Blue…I wonder what they must be thinking. How scared they must be. How very, very scared their parents must be…willing to, perhaps, change their last names to sound more American or even deny their homeland in the hopes it will help them get through the processing center. Desperately willing their families be allowed to stay together, and desperately hoping what they have heard is true…that this truly is the land of opportunity.

I have yet to hear one of them say, when interviewed, they ‘heard’ they could get ‘free stuff’ if they made it. All of them talk of hoping to find work, any kind of work, immediately.

Hear that? They want to work. They aren’t asking for hand outs.

This morning I’m listening to another of these mothers…this one from Honduras, speak of how she nearly lost her children as they crossed a river trying to get to our land of liberty. She was in tears speaking of their journey, the entire time saying if only they could get to America, everything would be ok. She would find work and no matter what, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the dirt floor of their shanty that was left behind.

I am sickened these refugees were ‘welcomed’ by residents (and non-residents) of Murrieta demanding they ‘go back to Mexico’ and ‘get their diseases out of our city.’

Sound familiar? It should. It wasn’t long ago Americans of a certain kind believed Black Americans should use different toilets for fear their imagined diseases. As if scabies (the disease most often seen by border agents) was some odd, untreatable malady and only brown people carried it.

So this 4th of July I find myself wondering what it truly means to be American. For the majority of us, it means to be an immigrant. Unless you are of Native American decent. There are tales of Native American blood in my family tree, although none confirmed. So really, just like most of us, my family risked a great deal to journey to a foreign land that held nothing but promises. That they heard offered opportunities where if you worked hard, you could become anything you wanted to be. I don’t ever remember that promise being ‘if you did nothing, you got free stuff…so come on over!’

No, just like my ancestors and just like these scared mothers I’m watching on the news, the tale remains the same. They heard if you came to America and worked hard you could be anything. And your children, your precious children, had a chance at a better life.

I want to take this 4th to thank my ancestors for believing in that dream and I want to tell those refugees those of us who are Americans still believe in that dream and I hope they still can too. We don’t all hate you or want you to be turned away.

This 4th of July I hope this new wave of immigration is welcomed-regardless of how they got here. I hope they are processed and given a chance. The same chance my ancestors were given. Some choosing to walk the straight and narrow to make ends meet and others bending the rules a bit, but all believing in hard work.

This 4th of July I also hope those of us citizens think hard about what it means to be an American, because I now think that definition includes offering that same chance to those who journey here under horrifying and harrowing circumstances we can’t even imagine and give some chance to these families. Not to mention respect, not hate and anger.

Shame on you, Murrieta.

*Update 8:24am July 3rd, 2014 – this is a link to the fliers they are passing out in Murrieta, CA. I ask you: How healthy are these families that have walked thousands of miles, hiking over mountains, and crossing rivers? Give me a break. Perhaps if we all VACCINATE and treat these families (if they do have any of these diseases, as I said before scabies has been the only reported one thus far) during processing (that’s what happens when the buses arrive, they are PROCESSED AND TREATED) we really won’t have any sort of health criss on our hands here, now will we? Unless you mean to tell me these people are different somehow? Cue scene from The Help where new bathrooms are build just for those diseased black folk….


  1. The one complaint I heard via Facebook is the cost of integration paid by a friend who met and married a woman from Canada. It cost them $3842 for her to immigrate legally. They are upset that people may be allowed to immigrate for free. That’s the only part I wonder about. We are a county of people who effectively stole what we call our own. Everything after that is all kinds of confusing.

  2. Thank you autocorrect for changing immigration to integration… also I suppose there is some humor there.

  3. Of course, the hypocrisy is miles wide and deep when you consider how many home-grown, American-born families are SKIPPING IMMUNIZATION and endangering infants and pregnant moms with communicable diseases that can be prevented.

    Xenophobes, sit down and take a powder.

  4. They will be processed and still have to pay whatever fees are necessary to become citizens. I don’t know how fees would be different simply because they are now in the hands of feds

  5. Bethany says:

    We’re doing all we can to give them an education in their home country…but as you know Erin we’re just a little fish in a big pond (country)…and there’s still the issue of no jobs and no public assistance from their governments…whatsoever. So even if we educate them, it still isn’t enough. The Guatemalan government is terribly corrupt – the Rios Montt trial is a perfect example. The great divide there is more like 99.99% vs. the .01%. The worst part is…the people we work with didn’t choose this – who would want to spend every day wondering how you were going to feed your family…a life of extreme poverty and heartache are the cards they were dealt.

  6. So without taking a side I would like to present a question.
    If we absorb these 52000 people, and 80% realistically won’t return to court for deportation. The real question that must be asked is what do we do with the hundreds of thousands that will come from 20 different country’s when by doing this we set a precident, that it is ok. In Southern California we already have an estimated 7 million illegals. Who pays the bill when it is 10 million. Most of these individuals work for cash, but need public assistance. When do we draw the line, enough. By allowing this we are opening the floodgates for a mass migration.

  7. Beautifully said. We are so fortunate to live in our melting pot country, and I think you’ve made excellent points.

  8. Actually many of these who even work for cash work to become citizens. Some even joining our MILITARY. You do support our military, yes?

    And if you haven’t noticed, they’ve all come looking for work…thus not taking public assistance. In order to gain public assistance you must be part of the system, yes? In order to collect these things, you need to show you are documented, yes? Last I checked social security, welfare, food stamps have intake forms, yes?

    I should also update two children are suspect of having H1N1 .. swine flu. The flu that is so ‘scary and nonAmerican’ it’s in last year’s flu shot from the CDC.

  9. Albert Burden says:

    In response to Erin,

    Having spent a career in the Army, and being a combat veteran.
    Unlike my first post where I took no side and presented an idea for the forum.
    On your post I do have a opinion, the military had many bilingual members, it is a great asset. But in a effective fighting force there is no place for anyone who is ESL, English as a second language. Whe need immediate comprehension of rapid orders quickly. I am sure like most things there are exceptions. But no ESL as a general rule. With the 52000 you are presenting that maybe 2% seek military service, and that justify all the expense of the support and transportation. It’s does not. The point if my first point was this sets precident for the millions that will start a mass migration. If you need an example to better understand. Try calling India on your computer for tech support, they may understand the language. But how many times do you have to repeat yourself before they say ok, 25 times. In war and the military ther is no room for one of ours to die. In America everyone can’t be right, you must take sides, and we cannot fix everything. We must start at home, otherwise the whole ship will sink.

  10. It always amazes me that in a country full of stolen land, built off the back of slavery, people complain about immigrants as if a few extra Mexicans is the worst thing to ever happen.

  11. Actually Albert how long has it been since you were enlisted? There is a very high demand for Spanish speakers- from posts in military hospitals to chaplains who need to help counsel those with domestic disputes and otherwise.

    As the majority of the influx are children, we’re not sure how many would be giving back as a service member, but we do know the amount now of military members who are seeking citizenship- and it’s not small. This 4th the President swore in several hundred. It’s also part of the President’s immigration reform proposal- giving those who have come here a chance to ‘step out of the shadows’ without fear by being able to give back to the country, via the military or other ways.

    BTW they are also required to pay back taxes and fees and go to the end of the line….

  12. Thank you for this post. I kept wondering how these Americans were talking about being true/real Americans and missing the whole point that we are a nation of immigrants. Very few of us are true Native Americans. This behavior disgusts me and makes me feel sad that we would treat human beings so callously and with such total disregard for their humanity.

    And to Albert…just because someone speaks English as a second language does not inherently imply he/she cannot code switch quickly or respond to rapid orders quickly. To suggest that is to show a lack of understanding of the human brain and its ability to learn, process, comprehend, and use language. Sure…a new speaker won’t be quick, but these people who would be in the military are not going to have just learned English the day before they start Basic.

  13. David Brayton says:

    Good God Erin you are friggin stupid


  1. […] The 4th & Murrieta, California's Hate for New Americans […]

Speak Your Mind