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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/18/15

An Open Letter to America's "Illegal Aliens"

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Message John Kiriakou
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Illegal Aliens
Illegal Aliens
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Dear Friends,

Here in the United States we've entered something we like to call the "silly season." That's when anybody with narcissistic personality disorder and lots of money can run for president. It's when the most hate is spewed as these would-be leaders try to set themselves apart. As a result, in the Republican Party, at least, they compete to see who can be the most conservative, the least tolerant, and the most exclusionary. I'm sorry to say that you take the brunt of the abuse that results.

I can only imagine what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of institutionalized hate, having to hear from people who want to lead the world's most powerful country that you are not good enough to live here, that you're rapists, criminals, and drug dealers, and that we ought to go to the trouble and taxpayer expense of building a wall to keep you out, despite the facts that many of you have children who are American citizens and that our economy simply could not run without your participation in it.

I want to tell you that, while it may be difficult, you should ignore these imbeciles. I know from first-hand experience that you are exactly the kind of people we need in this country. You see, many members of my family arrived in the United States as "illegal immigrants," even as recently as the 1960s.

When I was a kid, my father's cousin Angelo was a member of the Greek Merchant Marine. One day in 1968, Angelo's ship came into port in Norfolk, Virginia. The ship's captain approached Angelo and told him that he was the only person the captain could trust. "All these men will jump ship," he said. "You're the only one I can trust to stand guard."

Angelo went right over the side of the ship as soon as the captain went to bed for the evening. He swam to shore, dried off, hitchhiked to Richmond, Virginia, and found a Greek coffeehouse. There he found friends and compatriots who put him on a train and sent him to my grandparents' house in Farrell, Pennsylvania. I remember being four years old and Angelo hiding in the broom closet in my grandparents' kitchen. I also remember an Immigration officer banging on the front door of the house, and shouting, "We know he's in there!"

My grandfather, who had a third-grade education and could barely read and write, knew enough to shout back that nobody was getting into the house without a warrant.

Angelo moved from house to house among my relatives in Pennsylvania and Washington, DC over the next couple of years. He worked as a dishwasher and cook in restaurants and he learned to cut hair. He waited for a federal amnesty and was finally "legalized." He became an American citizen a few years after that.

Angelo lived the American dream. He became a barber in the Pentagon barbershop, bought a nice middle-class home in Springfield, Virginia, married, and had a son. It was all he ever wanted.

Angelo is just like you. He wanted to make a decent wage, to support his family, and to live in peace. He was happy to pay his taxes, and he was proud to be a productive member of society. U.S. immigration law was behind the times. It discriminated against Greeks just like it now discriminates against people from Latin America and elsewhere. I don't see coming to this country without a visa as a violation of the law. I see it as defiance of an unjust law.

Our politicians have had ample opportunity, over many years, to come up with some sort of "guest worker" plan that would have allowed hardworking undocumented workers to pay their taxes and legalize their status. That hasn't happened. It's not your fault. It's ours.

So my advice is this: Don't listen to our politicians. If your lives are so bad in your home country that risking a dangerous desert crossing is more appealing than remaining where you are, please come. Ours is an immigrant country. That's what makes us great. Mi casa es su casa. Beiti beitak. My house is your house. Welcome to the United States.

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John Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA and two years in a federal prison for blowing the whistle on the agency's use of torture. He served on John Kerry's Senate Foreign Relations Committee for two years as senior investigator into the Middle (more...)

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