When I think about immigration, I think about Manuel. I find myself back in college many years ago living in a place where many Latinos cooked our food in the dining commons. Manuel, a big burly guy with a wide smile, was one of those people whom I had gotten to know. We became friends.
When I think about immigration I think about the day the authorities came to round up the undocumented workers. There was a frantic knock on my door. When I opened it, my friend Manuel was standing there. Please, please let me inside, he gestured with his beautiful brown hands. He wasn’t himself. He was wet with sweat and shaking; terrified he would be found out, knowing what it would mean to him and his family.
We were alone in my small apartment. Drapes already closed, I shut the door quietly behind him. We didn’t speak. I gestured to him to follow me into my bedroom farther away from the front window. We sat very still in there. We didn’t talk. I was scared too.
There was a hard knock on the front door. He crossed himself. I said a prayer. We remained still for a very long time until it was safe for him to leave.
When I think about immigration, I think about him and others who have come here to have a better life, support their families because we have made jobs available to them in our fields, restaurants and homes where they might clean, cook and garden.