Wednesday, May 24, 2006
'Illegal immigrant' discovers he was legal after all
Imagine owning a winning lottery ticket, and carrying it with you for decades, but not knowing you had it. Riches could lie ahead, opportunities might abound, but you don't know about the possibilities, until someone brings it to your attention. So it was for Wilfredo Garza, a man whose life is now changed forever.

Garza has lived for 35 years, much of the time wishing he could become an American citizen. He was born in Mexico to an American father and was raised in Mexico, always assuming he was Mexican. But at a chance meeting last year, Wilfredo learned from an immigration attorney that just like his dad, he was an American citizen.

Garza is a working man with almost no formal education and has long figured the best future for him was in the United States, not Mexico. For years, he and his brother crossed the Rio Grande almost daily, sneaking into the United States. Garza was deported on four separate occasions, but managed to swim back into the United States each time.

Eventually, Garza and his brother scraped together enough money to buy a small ramshackle home in downtown Brownsville, Texas. Wilfredo is proud to have worked hard for everything he owns. He says he didn't cross the river looking for handouts; he came to work and work hard. On a good day, he says, he'd make $25 to $30 a day.

Garza puts a unique face on our immigration crisis. He's an immigrant who really wasn't. But through his story, his struggle, we learn just how important it is to be "an American."
Posted By Rick Sanchez and Kelly Buzby, CNN: 5:42 PM ET
  14 Comments
This is truly a very complex issue. I take my hats off to the Senate for having the courage to address this problem in the most sensible, practical, unemotional way as they possibly could.

There are millions of undocumented immigrants and each have a different story and circumstance. Chances are, if we are put in the same situation, we would be doing exactly the same thing. Risk all to be in America and hope to contribute our best to this country.

There will not be enough people to write, call or blog their representatives and espouse the legalization process. Just because this issue in not personally compelling to them. But there will be many who will be vocal to the contrary for their own particular reasons.

In the end we should remember that these are people and we should treat them as such.
Posted By Anonymous M. Harcourt Kenosha, WI : 6:15 PM ET
That's sad at worst, and laughable at best.
Posted By Anonymous eric, dallas, tx : 6:15 PM ET
Wow! I must say Mr. Garza has quite a unique story, but what I found most amazing is that he successfully snuck across the border "almost daily" and was deported only 4 times. He sounds like an honorable man who embodies the American spirit of hard work and dedication, but he also is a testament to our incredibly porous border if, out of thousands of (illegal?) border crossings, he is only caught a handful of times. Thanks for the story!
Posted By Anonymous Rob, Dallas TX : 6:30 PM ET
I'm sorry, but this is just a different spin on the same story. Can you guys cover something else tomorrow? I'm sick of hearing about the immigration problem already!
Posted By Anonymous Jack, Chicago : 6:35 PM ET
Hi Rick and Kelly,
We are a nation that needs our laws and rules, we'd have chaos without them. However, I live in an agricultural area, vineyards, strawberries,tourism and many other jobs that those from Mexico take. There are many Mr. Garza's here..That's why I want to be hopeful that we as a country can reach a compromise..I can see firsthand every day my "neighbors" from Mexico and see a real live, breathing human being with the same hopes and dreams as I have..Surely we can find some way to secure the border and still be kind to each other..PollyAnna, I'm not, but I'd like to have some optimism that we can live our lives without fighting each other so venomously on every single issue we confront as a nation..I'll stop now..I'm sounding too much like a great, Big, Know it all..Sorry.Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 6:35 PM ET
I'm tired of hearing about people sneaking over hear who "just want to work", etc. Well, guess what? SO DO MANY, MANY AMERICANS! We don't have enough jobs for American citizens. The unemployment rate is especially high for American teenagers and Black men. It is impossible to feel sorry for people who come over here to enjoy American priviledges.
Posted By Anonymous Toni Los Angeles, Calif. : 6:37 PM ET
This is a true man of honesty and is willing to make a good living in a great country. Welcome to America.
Posted By Anonymous chris, bloomfield, NJ : 6:54 PM ET
If he would have TRIED the front door first, he would have been in better shape for many years after. But good luck to him
Posted By Anonymous Chuck @ Brown Deer, WI. : 7:16 PM ET
Actually, there are plenty of jobs for Americans. How about going into the fields and doing back-breaking work for 12 hours? You'll only get paid minimum wage, at best, and have no benefits but at least you won't be unemployed.
Posted By Anonymous Rhonda, Raleigh, NC : 8:00 PM ET
No matter how much proof is given, people will find a way to discredit it because they don't want to be responsible for their actions.

In the end, every knee shall bow, every tongue confess.
Posted By Anonymous Len, Beaverton, OR : 10:12 PM ET
More illegal alien sob stories, huh? why don't you guys put something on here about the negative side of illegal aliens: crime, abuse of welfare services, overwhelmed healthcare and educational system! No more sob stories, please! Try reporting both sides of the story, like journalism is supposed to do, instead of being biased!
Posted By Anonymous Marie, Clemmons, NC : 1:11 PM ET
I think Marie wants 360 to show her exclusive take on the immigration stories.

Once we shut ourselves up from the reality of what makes us human, then we are on the path to repeat the tragedies of the past.

Already, there's man's inhumanity to man in the COngo, Darfur, Bosnia, China, Iraq, etc.

Marie's judgement that this is a sob story not fit to be aired presents some interesting perspective. Would it be easier to deport, round up, build walls or imprison 'these' people if we could somehow convince ourselves that they do not have these real life stories to tell?

Are we afraid to see them as human beings like us? with hopes and dreams, with pain and suffering, with a life to live the best they could? Like us?
Posted By Anonymous Holly S Cape Girardeau, MO : 1:45 PM ET
I just had dinner with a good friend who also thought he was not a US citizen. He renewed his green-card and played by all the rules (the front door someone else referred to). When he applied for citizenship, he discovered that as the child of two naturalized US citizens he had been a citizen for MANY years. He lost a lot of money and time over the years, knocking on the front door.
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Sacramento, CA : 6:58 PM ET
I am sick and tired of the romanticism of illegal immigration. I'm currently fighting to regain my identity after several illegals stole my social security number to get jobs. I was actually told my an attorney who helps illegals "why don't you get another one?" For what? So someone else can steal it? I shouldn't haven't give up what's rightfully mine. I feel like I'm being raped and the government is telling me "just deal with it."

I don't hate on them for wanting better lives but it shouldn't be at the expense of me and other american citizens.
Posted By Anonymous Josie, Atlanta GA : 12:29 PM ET
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