I hear crying in the next room and I stop writing. It’s my nanny. I was sitting at my computer writing, which is my daily ritual. But I think that it’s more like a ritual that monks do. More like the monks in the Middle Ages, like a flogging, really. Rough leather whipped on my back: that ritual looking for a story, a reason to write. I flog myself writing in my mind. At least that’s what it feels like. I have no thoughts, so I flog myself in my mind some more. Just to know the writing is good.
Then I get a phone call and it’s for Carmen, our nanny. To be fair, she’s really more of a friend. I’m the crazy “American” that she works for. Even though I’m Mexican-American, to her I’m just an American.
“Is Carmen there?” he says in a heavy accented voice. He sounds serious.
I call Carmen and she takes the phone. She takes it as far as the cord can stretch, five feet to be exact—just for privacy. I try not to listen. Then she hears some news. I hear her say simply and tragically:
“No, no, no, mi primo no, no mi primo.” over and over again.
Then she begins to cry a soft whimper of hurt and pain that I imagine as more of a cry of loss than I can imagine. Tears flow down her cheeks. I assume someone is dead that is close to her. I look at her and ask the question that I already know the answer to.
“Is anything wrong?” I ask … I admit: stupid question.
She begins to cry trying not to. “My cousin and whole family have been arrested. The immigration came this morning; I don’t mean to bother you.”
I assure her that it’s ok. But I know it’s not.
She tells me they have been in this country 28 years, paid taxes bought a home and they were all just out the night before celebrating Father’s Day. Only their daughter was not arrested. She was in Europe working for an American corporation, Disney, no less. She had just got her papers. And she was in Europe with Disney. The company that proclaimed it’s a small world after all, a world of laughter a world of joy. The irony hits me square in the face.
They are now gone and she does not know where they are. They were arrested like a family of criminals in front of all their neighbors. They were arrested like a Mob family. But they are just a simple Peruvian family that slipped through the cracks. A family that paid taxes, bought homes, helped our economy.
I’m feeling angrier and angrier and more ashamed of the country I love, the country my uncle died for and my father fought and worked in two wars for; a country where countless primos have fought. And I was ashamed this morning. I only could offer her the day off.
“Go home, do you need anything?”
And she just said, “No, I should work. It will take my mind of this.”
So she’ll work like all the immigrants that come to this country to do, and we all will keep our minds off this tragedy.
And still there will be no immigration reform.
There still will be a Congress paralyzed and a President that is now being called the “Deporter-in-Chief” by the Latino leaders who have realized he’s only going to give them “compassionate deportation,” which to some might be as callous as an international phone card to check on your remaining family back in the United States. Or the realization that our political leaders are fighting, but not for the immigrants and most of all not fighting for compassion.
We will need real heroes to fix this mess, and when I say real heroes, I mean people who are not perfect but flawed in spite of their imperfection who still do heroic things like work with the other side to find a solution. They work to find a real solution for our broken system with no powerful lobby or voice or political party, the immigrants. People that need a sorely forgotten emotion called compassion.
We need Congress to act for the people in this nation that they represent even the future American citizens that they will represent. Because this country of ours has done something better than any other nation on this earth: the ability to make more Americans. The ability to recognize others in this world with the same dream.
We need Congress to act. And I will write today because that’s my work. I will work today like the millions of immigrants here do everyday and think somehow this will all go away.
And I drink my coffee that Carmen bring to me and think, “Yes, it’s a small world after all.”
Rick Najera is an award-winning writer-performer-director-producer and author with credits in film, television, theatre and Broadway. His latest book, Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood, has recently been nominated as an “Inspirational Non-Fiction Book” by the International Latino Book Awards. You can follow Rick on Twitter @ricknajera.