LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Legal immigrants often overlooked

I want to applaud Barbara Armstrong (“Immigration: An American perspective” July 15) for shedding needed light on the difficulties legal immigrants face to enter this country and become citizens. There is so much talk these days supporting those who enter illegally, and so much taxpayer money going to support them, that the hardships of those who came legally are forgotten.

Maria Dolores de la Maza (“Lolis”) of Puebla, Mexico, who was a “pen pal” to an American man named “Andre,” was stopped at the Border in March 1940 when she tried to cross legally with a visa to marry Andre. So they had a civil marriage on the Mexican side on March 23, 1940 and Dolores had to return to Puebla.

She writes in her autobiography: “I don’t recall how many trips I had to make to the American Embassy [in Mexico City] before my visa [i.e. passport] was approved. I found out later that Andre had to prove that he had the financial means to support me so that I wouldn’t become a welfare statistic … I had to prove that I had never been in jail and that I didn’t have any communicative disease.”

At the border nine months later, some tiny clay containers with miniature rose plants were taken from Dolores and the flowers thrown away. She didn’t know why, but a kind person explained: “no plants, flowers, fruit or such were allowed into the country.” And Dolores wrote: “I was sad because I loved my little plants and I had carried them on the long trip.”

Dolores and Andre finally married in San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio on Dec. 29, 1940.

Andre was a very poor “farmer,” living in a house with no electricity or plumbing. But Dolores got right to work and over the years, she dedicated herself to learning English and working hard alongside my farmer Dad raising us six children.

Mom’s autobiography (that I’m editing), relates many stories, like how at one time, she worked in a small town restaurant peeling potatoes, with no air conditioning and stifling heat, to bring in needed funds. And how one Thanksgiving she and Dad had just 25 cents cash on hand, so they purchased a can of pumpkin for 10 cents and some sugar so she could make a pumpkin pie for the special occasion.

Besides working on the farm, in the restaurant, and selling items like greeting cards to bring in a little money, she participated in the political process of her new home country, writing to (and receiving replies) from leaders like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and others.

Mom never forgot her Mexican heritage and taught us kids things like St. Nicholas Day, where in Mexico treats were left by St. Nicholas in shoes on Dec. 6th. But she learned the culture of her new home country (including designing clever Halloween costumes for us kids, which won us some prizes).

Yes, I feel that Mom’s following the law and coming legally, learning English, and contributing to her new country were the right thing to do. I’m proud of, and I’m grateful to, my Mexican mom, Maria Dolores de la Maza Krymis.

Karen Krymis Smiga

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