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We Are All Immigrants

I admit to being discouraged about the divisive state of political discourse. But a random meeting earlier this week demonstrated you never know where inspiration may come from. Everyone has a story, sometimes you just have to ask.

My son’s car was transported back from Texas where he recently completed a summer internship. On Monday night I got a call from the dispatcher that the driver was about an hour away. I met the driver and we made small talk as he went about unloading the car. I could tell from his English that he was an immigrant and I asked him where he was from originally. “Cuba,” he said. I smiled and shared that I’d visited Cuba about 5 years ago. Even though it was 10:30 at night, Sergio and I spent the next hour talking in the parking lot at Whole Foods.

It turns out Sergio is the same age as me. In his twenties, he built two boats to escape Cuba but was arrested and jailed before he could set sail for the United States. He was harassed and followed by the Cuban National Police after his release. Finally, in 1995, at age 32, he and his wife secretly built a 14’ row boat and spent 24 days at sea before making landfall in Florida. He spoke no English, his wife only a little. She had family here, they were granted asylum and eventually citizenship. Sergio found work as a window washer on high rise buildings in Orlando making $8 / hour. Having learned to drive large trucks in Cuba, he soon studied for and passed the commercial driver’s license exam despite the language barrier.

A friend of a friend at his church connected him with a man who owned a car transport company and needed drivers. Despite having no experience driving car carriers, a day after meeting the man he was driving up Interstate 95 to Virginia to pick up cars. Today, he and his wife have their own car transporting business, they own a home in Florida and their nineteen-year old son is a college freshman studying engineering. Only in America.

I’d like to think reasonable people can reach an accommodative compromise on immigration policy and it strikes me as the height of arrogance to think one political party has a monopoly on good ideas. I think a lot about Ben Franklin these days. When asked by the crowd gathered outside Constitutional Hall what type of government the delegates had given the fledgling Democracy, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

One thing is for certain - we could use a lot more Sergios in this country.