I would like to share a story I heard on NPR this week, about the Gardeners' Foundation in the bay area of San Francisco.
The foundation awards underprivileged, college-bound kids with financial aid, never questioning the applicant about his/her citizenship status. What is amazing about this foundation is the man who started it all, Catalino Tapia. Mr. Tapia came to this country over forty years ago as an undocumented immigrant and made his living as a gardener, working and beautifying other people’s gardens. Over the years, he was able to become a documented resident of his adopted country.
After putting his son through college, he realized that there was an urgent need in the community to help those kids that wanted to go to college but could not afford it. Mr. Tapia began the Gardeners’ Foundation, appealing to many of his customers for donations to fund scholarships for deserving young people who yearned for a college education. The foundation has grown and prospered and has helped many grateful students realize his or her dreams.
Today, the issue of undocumented immigrants is a front-page story in our country. This is something that is very important to me since my own family migrated to the United States in the 1960’s. My parents made the difficult decision of leaving country and family behind so their son could grow up and raise his own family in this wonderful nation, enjoying the benefits of freedom and democracy. It was not easy moving to a country where they could not speak the native language, where the only jobs they could find were those other people did not want. After many hard, lean years and much struggle, my parents were able to live the American dream of owning their own home, seeing their only son graduate from college, and becoming full American citizens.
Our country has taken in immigrants from all over the world from the very beginning of its history. This, I believe, has contributed to its greatness and I so admire immigrants such as Catalino Tapia and my parents; they make us all proud to be Americans.
I’d like to leave you with one last thought: the issue of undocumented immigrants is a complex one but no matter what side of the issue you are on, I’d like you to consider that God has never created any “illegal” human beings. We can call these hard-working people undocumented, but no fellow human should ever be called “illegal”.
I hope you and your families have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving together.