Miguel is not a real person. This “letter” was drawn from the experiences of some of my middle-school students.
What Makes America Special
By Miguel Hernandez, 5th grade
America is special because it has freedom. My teacher told me so. It must be true. I know that freedom means we can grow up and do whatever we want to do and be whoever we want to be. I agree that is special, but how do you make it work?
Mi papi is second generation American, born in Joplin, Missouri. Yesterday, the police pulled him over on the side of the highway during a routine check. He had just picked me up from school, and I was in the car with him. They told mi papi to keep his hands on the wheel while they checked him out. A lot of other cars went by, and nobody stopped them. The officers then had mi papi get out of the car and put his hand on the roof. I was so scared. I was afraid they were going to arrest him and send him away. I shouldn’t have been afraid. The police searched the car, and after about thirty-minutes, they let us go.
Mi Tio Rodrigo, my father’s brother, wasn’t so lucky. His license had expired, so they took him to jail and called ICE. He is an American too, so he wasn’t worried. ICE thought he resembled someone on their list, so they took him to a detention facility. Mi familia had to hire a lawyer to go down and straighten it all out. They were sorry they had made a mistake, but we had to pay hundreds of dollars to the lawyer anyway.
When we went to visit my cousins in Mexico, we had a wonderful time, until we came back. We sat in the heat at the border crossing for two hours! We all had our passports and everything! Many people checked our papers and many others went over our car again and again. Finally, without a word of apology, the customs men waved us off, and we left.
I asked my friends at school if these things happened to their fathers and mothers. They said no. They had seen the checkpoints, but the police had never been pulled them over for anything. They asked me what my father and uncle had done wrong. I didn’t know. When I got home, I asked them. They didn’t know either.
So, I am confused. What does freedom look like? I need to find out so I can get some for my family and I. After all, I am an American, so I am supposed to have it. Aren’t I?