What does it mean to be legal?

Today, I was reading a comment on social media that caught my eye. The person wrote, “My ancestors came to this country legally. They had no need of handouts” I did some research and found some interesting facts. My forefathers came to this country around 1900 and were also “legal”. So, what separates them from today’s immigrant population?

First, in 1900, requirements for staying in the U.S. were quite different from today. My great-grandfather came from Germany, and he only had to sign his name and pay fifty-cents ahead (thanks to an 1892 immigration act) to get permission for him and his family to enter at Ellis Island. Once they established residency and had proof of employment for five years, they went to the federal courthouse and became citizens. That was it.

It is true that my ancestors did not use federal assistance (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid). They didn’t have any assistance available. That was OK though because no one in the country had any other than their own families until 1935 (Social Security) and 1965 (Medicare and Medicaid). I feel reasonably confident that had assistance been available, my great-grandparents and grandparents would have taken advantage of it. They would have been fools not to do so.

My great-grandparents never spoke a word of English. They lived in a German-speaking part of their city and had no need to learn. Since there was no language requirement for citizenship, there was really no need. My grandmother was two-years-old when they arrived, and her parents raised her bi-lingual. That meant German at home and English at school. She did the translating for her parents when they needed it. Her children, my mother, and uncles, were primarily English speakers and only knew enough German to keep their grandparents happy.

Today’s immigrants and refugees have a much more difficult time of it. The “line” often referred to on social media can be decades long. For an example, the spouse of an American citizen without special skills can take up to two years to get a green card. With the current cap on Mexican immigrants at around 60,000 and a waiting list of approximately 1.5 million, someone “getting in line”, again with no special skills, can expect a wait of over twenty years! I mention no special skills because those with money and certain skills can skip the line, and we welcome them with open arms.

Some Immigrants may be willing to wait, but refugees? They are a different story. Many come from countries that are corrupt and rife with drug trafficking and gang violence. A recent piece in The Wall Street Journal estimated that in northern Mexico alone 250,000 people have disappeared, presumed kidnapped, and in all probability dead. I don’t see people in this situation willing to wait decades. I see them as desperate enough to take their families across a desert or swim a major river to get just a CHANCE to have a life – not a better life, just a life. I know that in a similar situation, I certainly would.

I guess my final word would be don’t judge today on what yesterday did. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. I am not saying that we don’t need better security on our borders. I am saying that it is time for Congress to get off its duff and revise an outdated approach to immigration and refugee status that in turn makes us more secure.


My thoughts on abortion

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to hear Lindy West, op-ed writer for the New York Times, speak to the writer’s conference I attended. During her talk, the subject shifted to abortion and her support for it. Apparently, she had an abortion after a breakup with her boyfriend at the time and claims it was the best thing she ever did. At the time, I could think of nothing to say, and so I feel compelled to do so now.

Many of you know that the Bakers adopted me at birth, and that after a long search I discovered my birth mother some five years after her death. Roberta was only eighteen and had a boyfriend who promised her the moon – until she became pregnant. Then he took away the moon and the stars and deserted her. Likewise, her parents, good Mennonites that they were, threw her out of the house. Now being alone and pregnant in 1952-3 was not a pleasant experience for the mother or her future child. Roberta was fortunate that an aunt and uncle who lived away from the community of her parents took her into their home and later connected her with Catholic Charities. This group helped her through her pregnancy and promised her that her child would find a good, loving home, which they did.

My point is that Roberta was a poster child for abortion. Fortunately, for me, that was not a realistic option for her at the time. After having me, Roberta went on to marry and have another son, Steve. She also had a career and was a strong woman in her community. By today’s feminist agenda, she was a success.

People, like Ms. West, who see abortion as “just a simple procedure” are missing the sacrifice here. Even if you believe that the fetus within you is only a collection of cells, it is alive, and it will grow into a human child if given time. That child was the sacrifice you offered in exchange for nine months of freedom. That child who you never gave a chance at life.

So, even though I am a man and have no way of knowing what a woman goes through, I have a personal investment in this topic. If abortion had been legal and readily available in 1953, I have to wonder if I would even be around today. My children would never have been born. My wife would have found someone else. The world would be a different place.

To the newly minted HS Class of 2018

Be happy.

Whether college is calling you, or you are making your place in the workplace, remember this. Too many people focus on their college or their career so intently that they forget to be happy on the way.

That does not mean that there won’t be times when you work unceasingly to get something done on time, but it does mean that at least you realize you sacrificed something to do that, something that you want to get back.

You will have friends and/or roommates who take it too far the other way and party all the time. As tempting as it is, this way is as damaging as working all the time is.

Strive for balance. If you are a workaholic, schedule your “down time” along with your work time and then stick to it. If you are a “last minute” kind of person…change. The stress of living from deadline to deadline is immense. You don’t want to go there.

I wish you balance in your life. I pray that, whatever you do, you are happy with your choice and with the people that share it with you.

God bless you.

Mr. B.




I am a soul lost, forgotten

A single ember waiting

To explode into flame


A wanderer through the world

Desiring truth, finding little

Seeking hope from those with none


But I am not despondent

I do not fear what comes

The future brightens, not dims


My faith stands firm

Amidst ravaging seas

Among the destroyers it perseveres


Today, I live

Today, I strive

Today, I am


Bruce Baker, 2017

Identity 20171117