Two Sundays ago in California, I made a new little friend.
I’d love for my congressman to meet her.
On second thought, I want U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta to stay as far away from her and her family as he can get. I don’t want this smiling Republican anti-immigration fanatic to poison her belief that the American Dream she deserves as a proud little American citizen will continue to be hers.
I also don’t want Barletta to call Homeland Security on her hard-working family and try to deport them back across the Mexican border.
Her mommy was pregnant with her when she and others struggled through the dark desert night to risk their lives for freedom and leave the drug cartels, the murders and the poverty behind.
My little friend is in the first grade and her mommy and daddy are undocumented immigrants. Her aunt is an undocumented immigrant. Her grandma and grandpa are undocumented immigrants.
And she, with her dark eyes and perfect English, exhibits more compassion, kindness and understanding in her little heart than my mean congressman has in his whole body.
She settled in beside me at a happy family gathering in Santa Maria, where I used to live and work before moving back East. Bouncing on her chair and drinking a glass of juice, she looked into my eyes and gave me a wondrous smile.
“I remember you when you were just a baby,” I said.
“I remember you, too,” she replied.
Looking at my wife, Stephanie, she said, “I remember when she read me a story.”
This dear child is part of a great, loving family of special people who toil in the Central Coastal fields, working stooped labor in the sweltering sun so the nation can eat their fill of broccoli, strawberries, cauliflower, blueberries and other fruit and vegetables.
Toiling for politically powerful and very profitable agribusiness corporations, they are always at risk. But Republican politicians in California understand their worth to the economy and the vibrant immigrant spirit of the nation.
As the grandson of Italian immigrants, Barletta really should know better.
As the grandfather of a Latino child, he really should display more appreciation of lives that depend on liberty and justice for all – no matter what a person’s immigration status happens to be.
My new friend sat by my side as Mexican Corrido music played and friends and family laughed on a rare day off spent celebrating the first holy communion of another brilliant child – this one my god-daughter.
Later I would turn to my wife and say that my new friend all the more validates my commitment to fair civil and human rights for people who are daily demonized by opportunistic lawmakers like Barletta. Never will I stand by and let Barletta and his malicious, conservative “white shirts” hurt my little friend who is so full of love and life.
“Over my dead body,” I said.
Yeah, I know I sound dramatic. And yeah, I had a few Pacifico Claras under my straw cowboy hat that I bought special for the occasion for 20 bucks at a Mexican store.
But you need to know how serious I am about what we’re up against.
And I’m not talking Mexicans.
I’m talking about Barletta, who is wasting time and money on an immoral crusade that targets people who work as hard as any native-born man or woman in these United States. I’m talking about Barletta’s low-class re-election politics that hurt more people than they help and does far more damage to our national image than serious immigration reform would ever do.
During the party, my new friend asked me “What is you father’s name?”
“What is your mother’s name,” she wanted to know.
My friend wanted to know the names of my grandparents as well.
Traditional family values were more alive and well in her mind and in the party hall that day than at any Republican national convention ever held.
When I last saw my friend, she was rushing with other little friends I have made over the years– beautiful children that the white shirts callously call “anchor babies” - to present me with fresh fat cherries they had picked from a tree.
Before she went home she gently kissed me on the cheek.
Barletta held a sparsely-attended press conference yesterday on the City Hall steps of his home town. This lost lawmaker declared war on so-called sanctuary cities where refuge is welcome and where wise public servants show understanding by trying to solve rather than make problems in our evolving America.
Mean Lou Barletta is a big part of the problem.
My loving little friend is a big part of the solution.