Let me tell you about a mom from Mexico, who came to the U.S.
You probably think that you've already heard that story. But I've got one you probably haven't heard yet - - and I'll get to it in a moment.
Of course, I'm assuming that you're probably already familiar with Elvira Arellano. She's the thirty-two year old Mexican citizen who, it was announced last week, was deported to her native homeland, after spending the past year “seeking to elude federal capture” (the official description given to her by the authorities at I.C.E., the depart of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ).
The story has been told over and over. Arellano illegally enters the United States; gets deported; illegally enters the U.S. again; uses a phony Social Security number to get a job cleaning airplanes at an airport in Chicago (a colossal breach of transportation security - - Michael Chertoff, where are you???); gets pregnant and delivers a baby; takes up residency in a Chicago church building; and then, in conjunction with church officials, lets the world know what she’s doing, and her reason for doing it - - sequestering herself in the building so as to evade immigration authorities, and to draw attention to the allegedly “unjust” immigration policies of the United States.
As if all that wasn't sufficiently brazen and lawless, Ms. Arellano appeared in Los Angeles last weekend and held a press conference, wherein she stated that the immigration policies of the United States are “destroying” families, and that she cannot sit by and watch that happen.
Not surprisingly, after over a year of her taunting and her “waving it in the face” behavior, and her choreographed and stage-managed press conferences, Federal authorities arrested Ms. Arellano and sent her to Tijuana .
And that’s the story that the whole world has heard, about the mom from Mexico.
But now let me tell you about another a mom from Mexico. The story is similar, yet at the same time very, very different. And were it not for the reporting in Arizona's East Valley Tribune newspaper, this mom's plight would probably not be known much beyond her own circle of friends and family.
Maria Torres-DeChamberlin, a resident of Mesa, Arizona, came to the U.S. several years ago with her husband, children, and her "green card." After obtaining a job working for Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff ’s department, she then began to pursue full U.S. citizenship.
Her journey towards citizenship was disrupted in 2000 with a breast cancer diagnosis, and again in 2003 with the death of her husband.
But one week ago, after having studied diligently for her citizenship test and with her cancer spreading to her bones and her brain, Ms. Torres-DeChamberlin, quite literally, was granted her dying wish.
She was sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
She even got a one-hundred percent score on her exam.
Aided by social worker Susana Lenox at a Phoenix-area Hospice organization, and officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department, Ms. Torres-DeChamberlin was sworn in as a U.S. citizen during a private ceremony in her home.
With one arm broken and in a cast (the cancer has left her bones quite frail and breakable), the 50 year-old grandmother recited the Pledge of Allegiance. And afterwards, she stated “for me, it’s a wonderful day. I will have the right to vote, and I will have liberty.”
It is questionable whether or not Ms. Torres-DeChamberlin will live long enough to cast any ballots. But the dignity with which she has carried herself, and the love and respect for the United States that she has demonstrated, are both inescapable, if not overwhelming.
And the contrast between Ms. Arellano and Ms. Torres-DeChamberlin is also overwhelming. One woman is devoting her life's energy to displaying contempt for our nation and it's laws, and has chosen to create a distance between her and her child.
And then there's Maria Torres-De Chamberlin. She entered the U.S. legally, and has been working towards citizenship ever since. And now having obtained that goal, she wants to live long enough to see her children become citizens, and to vote in an American election.
This dichotomy should give pause to those who aided and abetted Ms. Arellano, and others who believe that her illegal and contemptuous behavior is appropriate.
And the rest of us, those of us who love and respect our nation, should be humbled and inspired by our fellow American - - Maria Torres-DeChamberlin.