Kerry Deichmann

Kerry Deichmann

Baton Rouge, LA

I was born a U.S. citizen. I was raised in the midwest and now live in the south. From my teenage years through early adulthood, I spent time working in Central American countries – teaching English at first and later working with NGOs on gang-related issues.

One of the most bittersweet aspects of being an American is our freedom to choose. We are free to choose our beliefs, free to speak them and share them without the threat of persecution for doing so. The downside to this is that beliefs do not always come from knowledge but often from blind faith and ignorance.

I feel that so much of the anti-reform sentiment in this country comes from ignorance. There is too much emphasis on punishment for violation of immigration laws and zero recognition of the mitigating reasons that have encouraged individuals to break our laws and come into our country illegally seeking refuge.

What about the hand the U.S. has had in helping to create some of the problems in countries from which people are fleeing? We say nothing about policies that create problems elsewhere, because it benefits us; yet we scream at the top of our lungs when people in these countries decide that they cannot wait for years only to be denied a visa so they can escape dangerous political, economic, and social circumstances.

Daring proactivity is something we value when it benefits us. I am now married to an illegal immigrant. We have been together for 5 years, married for one. I must say that even for U.S. born citizens, our “freedoms” are not guaranteed. I am free to choose who I love. I am not free to choose to love someone AND free to live a life in my country without the threat of losing that person every day. I am not free to start a family with my husband without the threat of becoming a single mother every day for reasons other than death.

For me, being American should mean the freedom to choose, to work hard to improve your quality of life, to make a life for yourself and your family without the threat of persecution. I was born with those rights. I lost them when I chose to love someone who came here to escape problems that were, in part, created by the country that considers this hard-working, law-abiding, generous and loving human being an “alien.” If that kind of person is “alien” to this country, I struggle to find why it is worth calling myself “American.”

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