American on Purpose — and Proud of It

By Retired Army Sergeant Major Rosemarie T. Caraballo.

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Photo credit: MaxPixel

The United States has welcomed immigrants blessed to live in a nation that believes in democratic norms. This country allows everyone to flourish if they work hard and take advantage of opportunities not found in places like Latin America. In 1954 and the late 1960s, my grandfather was allowed to come to the United States from Mexico as part of the “Bracero” or “Mexican Farm Labor Program.” His story led to the honor of my life: the chance to serve my country as a career soldier and noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army.

The United States introduced the Bracero program during the labor shortages that occurred when American workers went to fight in World War II. Approximately 2 million Mexican workers came to help fill 4.6 million legal seasonal farm jobs working the fields to feed America and export many U.S. food supplies to the world. While many immigrants faced discrimination, abuse, and uncertainty, this was an opportunity to provide for their families back home.

A one-day journey from the small town of Tarimoro, Guanajuato, Mexico, and then a train ride to the border brought my grandfather to the U.S. My grandfather, along with hundreds of other Braceros, was sent to government labor farm camps in California. My grandfather and his sons arrived at El Centro Station, in Brawley, Calif., and there the journey began.

The U.S. is a country made up of all colors and flavors; it is a melting pot of immigrants from the world over. Our cultural diversities and contributions are many, and our language, food, and music are things that make us unique. But there are things that unite all Americans — particularly our love for family and country, our willingness to work hard, and family values.

Thanks to my grandfather’s many sacrifices, the rest of the Tirado family obtained their U.S. legal permanent residence status to work and live in the United States of America. He lived to see his sacrifices pay off. He would be proud to know that his children all became naturalized citizens and productive members of our communities.

I am a product of immigration: the granddaughter of a Bracero who, in 1978, at the age of 20, enlisted the United States Army as a private. In 2009, I retired as a Sergeant Major, honored and blessed to have served our glorious nation for 31 years. I joined the United States Army, but not for free education. I joined to give back to my adoptive country. I was fortunate to work with and lead the best soldiers in the world.

Immigration is an essential issue for all Americans, and we cannot shut the door and throw away the keys with rhetoric that insults or degrades those who come from other lands. Today the U.S. government’s actions toward Latin America no longer seem to be grounded on a coherent policy that promotes democracy. The current approach is more focused on who is a friend or foe of the current Administration.

The credibility of U.S. foreign policy must be re-established. If Vice President Joe Biden is elected president, we have a chance for a total reset in engagement toward Latin America and promote more democratic norms in the region. A Biden Administration would adopt a foreign policy toward Latin America based on non-intervention, non-interference, mutual respect, and support for human rights for all people. He will not demean immigrants like my grandfather who came here to work and whose children and grandchildren dream only of serving our country and helping make it more secure.

Rosemarie Caraballo is a retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major; she is a logistics and human resources specialist and previously served as the G4 Sergeant Major for U.S. Army Europe.

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