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Trump’s Immigration Policies Hit Home For This Angeleno. So Who Gets To Be American Now?

A 1970 passport photo of Maria Martinez, mother of A Martinez, host of KPCC's Take Two. (Courtesy of A Martinez)
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I was born in L.A. but my mom is from Ecuador. She came here on a tourist visa, which she “absent-mindedly” let expire. I was just a toddler when, as she puts it, “two polite men in black suits” came to her front door and told her she had 30 days to leave or they’d deport her.

She waited right up until the deadline before boarding a plane back to Guayaquil, but it took her much longer than she thought it would to make it back. It was long enough that I did not recognize her when she finally returned, and I screamed in terror because a stranger could not stop crying and hugging me.

Now, same topic, different outcome: one of the uncles who looked after me while she was gone -- and who played catch with me growing up -- was officially deported in 2011.

He had a green card, and he was a legal resident, but he also was a habitual petty shoplifter. He didn’t need to steal stuff like the bag of shrimp that turned out to be the last straw that got him sent to Terminal Island while he fought deportation.

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Listen, I know he did something stupid and has no one but himself to blame, but I have some trouble squaring the idea that he’s someone who committed such a “serious crime” that he had to be removed from the U.S. during the Obama administration.

And cut me some slack on this. He’s my uncle, so that’s my heart talking.

So needless to say, the subject of immigration has particular resonance with me, but it’s not just my story. Nearly one in four California residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent, according to the American Immigration Council. In Los Angeles County, one-third of the residents are foreign-born.

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. immigration system has been remade. In addition to all the rhetoric demonizing those crossing the border illegally, and the president’s calls to build a wall, the White House has been building what could be called an “invisible wall” to suppress legal immigration.

So in a special edition of Take Two, the show I host, we asked: Who gets to call the United States their home? And what’ll happen when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take office in January?


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