Each and every day, it seems, we have a new story of immigrants being deported. Not just undocumented immigrants, but also immigrants holding green cards. Not just immigrants who have run afoul of the police and courts, but also immigrants who have been pillars of their community. Not just immigrants who have no one to speak for them, but immigrants who are being represented by legislators and activists desperately trying to help them stay in this country.
With each new horror story of the brutal, power-drunk tactics of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), I’m reminded of an old television clip I saw years ago. Desi Arnaz, who fled from Cuba to the United States, was speaking at some awards dinner, his then-wife Lucille Ball at his side. As he wiped tears from his eyes and struggled to speak while choked up from emotion, Desi thanked the United States for the opportunities he had received to start over in a safe country, to rebuild his life.
In another clip, this one with his children, Desi’s children said he was grateful to the U.S. to the day he died for everything this country had given him. In his memoir, I Love Lucy producer Jess Oppenheimer told the story of how he and the show's writers had to change the entire second act of an episode on the fly because Desi refused to do a scene in which Ricky Ricardo had to admit he fudged on his taxes. Desi believed Ricky would never cheat the United States.
That’s the America we used to be in the eyes of immigrants and of the world, the America we no longer are, and the America I fear every day I won’t see again in my lifetime.
(Image: Group of immigrants, walking down road; iStock / Used with license.)