I remember my very first girlfriend. Her name was Sierra. I was five and she was four. We both lived on the beach, in tents. I wasn’t on vacation nor was she. We actually lived in tents. My parents decided to take a year off from their hectic lives and we somehow ended up living in a tent on the beach. And I remember holding her hand and walking down the beach, with one hand loosely holding hers’ and the other holding my fishing net. And to be honest, that is all I remember about Sierra. That one little memory has stuck with for 26 years. I have many other memories of that year abroad. I remember going to the market with my dad and sitting at the mini-cafe and ordering raw egg shakes, cause that was what Rocky drank. I remember visiting the local school and singing with the kids. I remember ‘Sport Billy,’ a cowboy who would take us on his horses through the trails in the mountains. I remember staying in a hotel for a few months and watching a film crew shoot a movie in the lobby that starred Charles Bronson. I was a kid living abroad and I loved it. I will forever be indebted to the beautiful country of Mexico for allowing us to stay on their pristine beaches and to be able to walk hand-in-hand with Sierra, holding my fishing net.
[pagebreak]I have had a great affinity towards Latin America during my lifetime. Maybe it was because of my experiences as a young boy in Mexico, or maybe it was because I grew up in New York where a large part of the fabric of our city is made up of the great cultures of millions of Latinos. For whatever reason, I have always valued the rich history immigrants have contributed to the make-up of our country, including those of my ancestors from Russia and Poland. My great-grandfather came here with no money in his hands, no knowledge of the language to communicate, no family, no nothing. He pushed a cart around the Lower East Side of New York City, trying to make ends meet, getting spit on and called names by people who didn’t like the Jews. He never spoke the language, he barely made ends meet and he died a poor man. I will forever be indebted to our beautiful nation for having a system in place one hundred years ago that allowed my great-grandfathers and my great-grandmothers to come to this country so their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren could have the opportunity to live amazing lives. It is remarkable that one hundred and thirteen years after my great-grandfather came to this country, our system of immigration is completely broken.
[pagebreak]I was excited to hear during the presidential that both candidates supported comprehensive immigration reform. And when Obama won, I was hopeful that he would be able to fulfill his campaign promise by reforming immigration within the first year of his presidency. Well, as we all know, that didn’t happen, but there was definitely momentum being built that made it seem like it actually might happen this year. Then came Governor Jan Brewer and Arizona and the entire movement went into panic, and the Democrats felt they shouldn’t touch this issue during an election year. Last week, I got a call from a colleague in Washington, who said that the administration didn’t think they could get it done this year, so they were stopping the reform campaign and would try to do it in pieces. Damn. We were so close…not that I wanted the reform so I could re-unite with Sierra, but for so many families torn apart by our broken system, I was rooting for them.