This immigration love story does it the ‘right way’
By Sharon Kha
“It’s not that we don’t want Mexicans to come to America,” the woman in the coffee shop said. “It’s just that we want them to do it the right way.”
The right way? And what would that be? Should we advise them to do exactly as we did?
When we were the ones on the other side of the fence wanting to settle in this new country, we cheated the people who were living there at the time — the Indians. We herded them into reservations and broke every treaty we made with them. When all else failed, we gave them disease-infected blankets that killed them off.
No, I don’t think we want our neighbors to the south to imitate us.
The task of finding examples of the “right way” to immigrate is more difficult than I had anticipated.
But I found it in award-winning journalist Linda Valdez’ new book, “Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders.”
This is a romance so strong it defied immigration laws.
Valdez won national awards writing about immigration in Arizona when that state was the hot-spot for undocumented border crossing, border deaths, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racial profiling and the 2010 “show me your papers” law.
“I’ve written about the policies,” she said. “I decided to tell my own story to counter some of the angry rhetoric about immigration with some genuine emotion, our love story.”
In her book, published by Texas Christian University, tells about her marriage to Sixto Valdez two weeks after he crossed the border illegally to be with her. That was nearly 28 years ago.
Even though her book is all fact, it reads like fiction. Her attention to detail draws you into the story from the very first line which reads:
“Dona Sole didn’t kill the chicken that night. She put it in the kitchen under a milk crate and she put a rock on top of the crate so the bird couldn’t get out.”
Valdez provides a look into rural Mexico that most Americans never see as she tells her story of discovering how the Mexican culture is one of caring for family and community.
When Valdez became part of Sixto’s family, they embraced her. When a flood drove them from their homes when she and her mother were visiting, the community took care of them as though they had been in the family forever.
“Imagine how we would have treated a Mexican family stranded in Phoenix,” Valdez said. “I don’t think we would come out very well.”
Valdez sees the southwestern border between the United States and Mexico as the Ellis Island of this generation, and she tells the story of how Sixto and their daughter formed one aspect of the new American family.
It’s a story for these times. Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said this book should be required reading for Donald Trump. Former Arizona Governor Fife Symington calls it a story of “ faith, understanding, and community.”
Linda Valdez has been a member of the Arizona Republic editorial board since 1993. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 2003 and won the Scripps Howard Walker Stone award for editorial writing in 2010.
Sixto Valdez teaches first, second and third graders in public school. He earned his master’s degree in bilingual learning disabilities in order to prevent Spanish-speaking children from being misclassified as special education students.
Their story in “Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders” is about doing it the right way.
Sharon Kha, 73, was born in Canada and immigrated to America in her late 20s to become a high-school English teacher, a TV news reporter at KGUN-TV in Tucson, Arizona, for 10 years, and a spokeswoman for the University of Arizona in Tucson for 22 years. She retired in 2005.