Back in 2004 I met a very courageous person, a young Iraqi woman of twenty-four years of age. I had the privilege of working together with her trying to help rebuild her country after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Each day she would walk a circuitous route through Baghdad to and from work, striving hard to cover her tracks so that no one would discover that she was working for the Americans.
This was the era of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Iraqi terrorist leader who was doing his utmost to create havoc inside Iraq. Killing and beheading Iraqis and Westerners alike, al-Zarqawi was determined to disrupt the American effort to stabilize Iraq and give the Iraqi people an opportunity for a future.
Any Iraqi who worked for the Americans was fair game for al-Zarqawi and his followers, including women and children. My young Iraqi friend placed her life on the line, and even that of her family members every single day by just coming to work to help provide for her family.
Interested in furthering her education and expanding her horizons she decided to apply for and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. And showing more courage she left her culture and family behind and came to study in America. Settling into a strange land with strange customs she flourished.
Working at odd jobs to help make ends meet and even overcoming a serious health challenge, she eventually obtained an advanced degree and went to work once again for the American military teaching the Arabic language to American troops preparing to deploy overseas.
Showing the perseverance and following all of the legal requirements over a period of several years she became a proud new American citizen. And our country has been greatly enriched by having her among us. Her story is one that should be shared as an example of what is best about the great ‘melting pot’ that makes up our great nation of immigrants.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez came to America illegally from Mexico, at least as early as 1991 when he first was arrested by American law enforcement. His lengthy criminal record includes arrests mostly for drug offenses, but did indicate an arrest for assault in Arizona back in 1997.
As a seven-times convicted felon Lopez-Sanchez was previously deported a total of five times and returned to Mexico. Yet after each deportation he would return, illegally entering the United States each time. Using at least thirty aliases he would remain in the U.S. until being arrested and deported yet again.
How Lopez-Sanchez lived while inside the U.S. is anybody’s guess. He certainly wasn’t regularly employed and as far as is known he didn’t pay any taxes. He didn’t come here as an inspiring poet or artist, or a person of conscience who left persecution and oppression in his native Mexico. Nor has he really contributed anything positive in any way to American society during his stays. He survived most likely by committing crimes to provide for himself.
My Iraqi friend and colleague is someone I am proud to know, and she is someone who has contributed much to our country. And I am confident she will continue to do so throughout her life.
She believes strongly in what America stands for and appreciates the opportunities that she has been given by our great nation. So much so that she has worked hard to give back for the blessings America has bestowed upon her.
As for Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, last week he killed thirty-two year old Kate Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco as she walked alongside her father.
And as she fell to the ground and lay dying she was heard to say “Dad, help me, help me”.