The Joy of Travel…Miami Style

Patsy, our travel agent, says we have a black cloud over us when it comes to DFW and American Airlines, but it only happens when my darling wife, S. is with me.  This time the mechanical bug bit our aircraft and we had to wait for another.  Only a two hour delay which didn’t actually matter much to us as we planned to overnight in Miami, but the 100 or so other fellow travelers who were making connections in Miami got the shaft.

We finally landed and after the world’s longest runway taxi we disembarked only to be confronted with the world’s longest terminal walk.  It was a least six miles I promise you.  Unfortunately, it took half the walk schlepping 150 pounds of luggage to overcome my stinginess and induce me to spend the $5 for a luggage cart.  And yes, I was getting plenty of advice from the distaff side.

At last we arrived in a sweat at the Miami International Airport Hotel.  Here’s where the wisdom comes in:  Never, and I mean never, stay at a hotel with airport in its name.  This maxim is on a par with:

Never drink good whiskey in a bar with ferns hanging in it.
Never eat in a diner with “mom” or “mother” in the name.
Never expect good food in any restaurant with a salad bar.

I almost added, “avoid all restaurants that have a name starting with “The top of…”.  Except I did have some pretty good chow at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco many years ago.  Last night we ate at The Port at theTop of the Miami Airport International Hotel” which constitutes at least a double, if not, triple whammy in my Wisdom of the Ages list.

Killing time I stopped by several airport book stores looking for a book on learning Spanish.  I’ve been trying to learn Spanish for at least 60 years to little effect, but I thought a little brush up before Havana might be useful.  After no luck at four bookshops spread out over two terminals, I gave up and bought a book designed to teach English to Spanish speakers.  Don’t ask me why.  In a fit of frustration and pique I asked a clerk in the last store why they didn’t have what I was looking for.  She replied, “well, I guess everyone here already speaks Spanish”.  And they do.  900,000 of the 1.8 million Cubans in America live in Miami and environs.  Of the remaining 900,000, a goodly number hail from other Hispanic countries and even the gringos who live here probably have absorbed some Spanish by osmosis.  And, of course, they all speak Spanish in Cuba.

This morning the Miami Herald had a story on the front page about a young girl who was the valedictorian of her high school class, wanted to be a neurosurgeon, had been accepted by two ivy league schools and was rewarded with a deportation notice from our government.  Evidently her parents had brought her to the US on a tourist visa at age four and never went back to Columbia.  Rather than duck the problem, she applied for an exception to the immigration court and was turned down, then because she had come to the notice of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) they gave her a deportation notice for her troubles.  Now all of Miami, (at least the thinking ones) are up in arms and signing petitions to support her.  Of the twelve million or so so called illegals in this country, it is credibly estimated that about six million came here legally on tourist or work visas and when their legal period ended, just blended in with society.  It’s not right but it happens.  If you built a fence forty feet high with razor wire on top guarded by remote controlled machine gun nests every forty yards, we still would not stop the flow of illegals.  Food for thought,  all nineteen of the 9-11 perpetrators came into the country with visas, legally.  Six of them overstayed their visas, but the rest were still here legally.  So much for a border fence securing our borders.

It may be that we are long overdue for real immigration reform, and, in the mean time, for chriss sakes, lets demand that congress pass a version of the Dream Act that will not punish children who should be, and could be assets to our society.

BTW, I’m writing this while waiting out yet another delay (2-3 hours) on our never ending journey to Havana.

Wisdom of the Ages

Patsy, our travel agent, says we have a black cloud over us when it comes to DFW and American Airlines, but it only happens when S. is with me.  This time the mechanical bug bit our aircraft, and we had to wait for another.  It was only a two hour delay which didn’t actually matter much to us as we planned to overnight in Miami, but the one hundred or so other fellow travelers who were making connections in Miami got the shaft.

We finally landed and after the world’s longest runway taxi we disembarked only to be confronted with the world’s longest terminal walk.  It was a least six miles I promise you.  Unfortunately, it took half the walk schlepping one hundred fifty pounds of luggage to overcome my stinginess and spend the five dollars for a luggage cart.  And yes, I was getting plenty of advice from the distaff side.

We arrived in a sweat at the Miami International Airport Hotel.  Here’s where the wisdom comes in:  Never, and I mean never, stay at a hotel with airport in its name.  This maxim is on a par with:

1. Never drink good whiskey in a bar with ferns hanging in it.

2. Never eat in a diner with “mom” or “mother” in the name.

3. Never expect good food in a restaurant with a salad bar.

I almost added, “avoid all restaurants that have a name starting with “The top of…”.  Except I did have some pretty good chow at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco many years ago.  Last night we ate at The Port at the Top of the Miami Airport International Hotel” which constitutes at least a double, if not, triple whammy in my Wisdom of the Ages list.

Killing time, I stopped by several airport book stores looking for a book on learning Spanish.  I’ve been trying to learn Spanish for at least sixty years to little effect, but I thought a little brush up before Havana might be useful.  After having no luck at four bookshops spread out over two terminals, I gave up and bought a book designed to teach English to Spanish speakers.  Don’t ask me why.  In a fit of frustration and pique I asked a clerk in the last story why they didn’t have what I was looking for.  She replied, “well, I guess everyone here already speaks Spanish”.  And they do.  Nine hundred thousand of the one point eight million Cubans in America live in Miami and environs.  Of the remaining nine hundred thousand, a goodly number hail from other Hispanic countries and even the gringos who live here probably have absorbed some Spanish by osmosis.  And, of course, they all speak Spanish in Cuba.

This morning the Miami Herald had a story on the front page about a young girl who was the valedictorian of her high school class, wanted to be a neurosurgeon, had been accepted by two ivy league schools and was rewarded with a deportation notice from our government.  Evidently her parents had brought her to the US on a tourist visa at age four and never went back to Columbia.  Rather than duck the problem, she applied for an exception to the immigration court and was turned down, then because she had come to the notice of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) they gave her a deportation notice for her troubles.  Now all of Miami, (at least the thinking ones) are up in arms and signing petitions to support her.  Of the twelve million or so so called illegals in this country, it is credibly estimated that about six million came here legally on tourist or work visas and when their legal period ended, just blended in with society.  It’s not right but it happens.  If you built a fence forty feet high with razor wire on top guarded by remote controlled machine gun nests every forty yards, we still would not stop the flow of illegals.  Food for thought…all nineteen of the 9-11 perpetrators came into the country with visas, legally.  Six of them overstayed their visas, but the rest were still here legally.  So much for a border fence securing our borders.

It may be that we are long overdue for real immigration reform, and, in the mean time, for chriss sakes, lets demand that congress pass a version of the Dream Act that will not punish children who should be, and could be assets to our society.

BTW, I’m writing this while waiting out yet another delay of two to three hours on our never ending journey to Havana.

Dream On

Sadly for our country, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was defeated in the Senate last week.  No, it actually wasn’t defeated, because it never came up for a vote.  There were fifty two senators who wanted to pass this important piece of legislation but couldn’t because of the intransigence of a few who refused to allow debate to be ended and a vote taken.  There’s that nasty Senate Rule 22 again.

For those of you who haven’t followed closely, this is all about defining a process to deal with the children of illegal immigrants who were brought into this country by their parents.  I know, I know… some of you (and many others in our country) are already thinking of the A word… amnesty, and others are thinking “why should we reward illegal behavior”, and even others are thinking that we need to deal with border security first.  Some have even said, “let these illegal kids apply for citizenship like everyone else”.

I have three words in response. Visitation of sin.  If you, like me, grew up steeped in the dogma of one of the more fundamentalist Christian sects, you would know any one of several passages of the bible that make this point.  To wit:  Exodus 34:6-7 which reads in part, “the Lord, compassionate and gracious…yet he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the inequity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren…”.  This was explained to me by an earnest minion of the church in a revival study group for middle-schoolers, wherein he said that his son, who was born without a right arm, was being punished by god for his own sins.  I was, of course, aghast, and thus began my long journey away from biblical teachings and the church.  Perhaps the subject of another blog some time.

I am equally aghast at those among us, including forty eight of the sitting members of the Senate, who would make these unwitting and innocent children virtually stateless persons because of the sin of their fathers (and mothers) by entering this country without proper documentation.

There are a thousand stories in the big city, but let me tell you just one that I know about that is particularly on point.  Graciela (not her real name of course) came with her parents to Oklahoma when she was ten and her younger brother was six.  They spoke no English, but learned quickly.  Graciela proved to be an excellent student; excelling in every course of study.  She ultimately graduated first in her class from the local high school.  During her school years, in addition to her studies, she looked for ways to connect with the community and began going to the local Boys and Girls Club.  The counselors there noted her ability to relate to and teach younger kids as well as her considerable leadership attributes. They ultimately nominated her in a national competition to become National Youth of the Year for the Boys and Girls Club of America.  She prepared an extensive application and wrote an essay on citizenship. She interviewed with a panel of adult volunteer judges in Dallas who selected her as one of six regional finalists for the top honor. This was a really big deal.  One of six out of three million members of the club.  Along with the honor of being a finalist, came a $10,000 college scholarship and a visit to the White House to meet then president Bush.  It was only when she provided her SSN as a requirement for the White House visit did she learn that it was not valid and that she was “illegal”.  To make a long, sad story short, she did not go to the White House, she did not get the scholarship, and had to face the stark reality that not only was she not a citizen of the United States, she probably would never be.

S. and I found out about Graciela case through a caring staffer.  I tried to intervene to no avail, but S. and I decided to replace the lost scholarship with one from our own family charitable foundation.  Our relationship with Graciela did not end there.  She went to college, studied hard, and excelled.  I sought to learn more about our immigration laws.  I spoke with Graciela from time to time, keeping up on her activities and her grades.  I also had to tell Graciela that according to current law, that since she had stayed in the US in an illegal status beyond the age of eighteen, the only way that she could ever have a chance to become a citizen would be to leave the U.S., wait ten years and then apply for legal entry; which would likely be denied because of her previous illegal status.   Talk about a logic trap.   I told her that her only other chance was for legislation like The DREAM Act to be passed.  She cried.  I felt like crying as well.

Graciela graduated with honors from a university in Oklahoma and has now completed her master’s degree as well with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.  We’ve long said in America that people are our most important asset, and what an asset Graciela could be, but we won’t let her.  She can’t get a drivers license, and without a license, she can buy a car but she can’t get insurance.  She can’t work (legally) and consequently cannot become a fully productive member of our society.  We have forced her into the shadows.

Yes, I agree that her parents have culpability.  They committed the original sin, so to speak.  But why, should we, like the writer of the verse in Exodus, demand that she be punished for the sins of her father.  It makes no sense.  There are not many Gracielas out there.  She is special, but there are thousands with similar stories.  We cannot in good conscience sentence them to the purgatory of stateless personhood.

For those of you who are interested, I’ve outlined the principle term of the now dormant DREAM Act below:

1. The child must have arrived in the United States before the age of 16.
2. They must have lived in the US for 5 continuous years at the time of adoption
of the Act.
3. They must be of good moral character.
4. They must be a high school graduate or accepted to attend college
5. They must be between the ages of 12-35 when applying.

If these terms are met, they would be granted conditional residency for 6 years during which they must complete at least 2 years of college or honorable service in the military.  After 5 1/2 years they could apply for permanent residency if they’ve met, or will meet, the above conditions.

The Dream Act was never brought to a vote.

Addendum to Dream On

May 2015

In the face of the intransigence of the now Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, Obama faced the hard choices of doing nothing for those he had promised much or using the power of his office to make some changes via executive order.  He chose the later.  On June 2012 the Obama administration announced a revised policy for those so called “Dreamers” that had been left behind in the aftermath of the failure of Congress to pass the “Dream Act”.  DACA, the Deferred Act for Childhood Arrivals was, in effect, a courageous effort by Obama to right a longstanding wrong through Executive Order.  When announced in the Rose Garden on June 15, 2012 the predictable hue and cry from the Republican caucus ensued.  Ultimately twenty-six states Attorneys General sued to block the action.  Yes, you can probably guess most of the states.  And most recently, a federal judge for the Southern District of Texas issued a temporary injunction which precludes the administration moving forward with DACA.

Who knows how this will all turn out.  I hope that over time, the arc of history, will continue its progressive path and will bring sanity to the tangled mess that is our immigration law.  In the meantime, we are penalizing ourselves by not allowing the Graciela’s of the world to lend their talents to our society.

First published December 23, 2010