Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fellow Americans: Luis Ramos and family

Gregg Ramos' immediate family, surrounding patriarch Luis Ramos
photo taken in Arizona, at a cousin's wedding in 1967

Gregg Ramos talks of 14th Amendment and his father

Nashville attorney and former head of the Nashville Bar Association A. Gregory ("Gregg") Ramos penned a Sunday op-ed for the Tennessean about the birthright citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Ramos mentions his father Luis Ramos, who was born in Texas to Mexican national parents who may not have had immigration status in this country. (Editor's Note: Those who would impose a label on Luis Ramos and his family, one other than "fellow Americans," have defamed their own American identity, for failure to honor the Ramos family as well as the 14th Amendment.)

Ramos concludes his editorial, which can be read in full here, arguing that his father fought in World War II for the values instilled in the 14th Amendment and what it means to be an American:
Gregg Ramos' father
and mother
During World War II, more than 300,000 Mexican-Americans, including my Texas-born father, who was the greatest American I have ever known, served our country in the armed services. They did so because of the promise that America is the land of the free, the land of opportunity. They placed their unquestioned trust in this great country in the belief that as a result of their service, bravery and sacrifice, the promise of what it is to be an American would continue to thrive.
Read the full editorial here.

Ramos fleshes out for HispanicNashville.com a little about his family history and how his father came to be born in the U.S. even though his parents might not have been through any immigration process:
The reason I keep mentioning my father is that he, as well as thousands and thousands like him of his generation, may very well have been the so called “anchor babies” (I hate that term) of their time. My Dad was born in 1924 in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican nationals. He was born in El Paso because his father and mother (my grandparents) happened to be working in or near El Paso at the time. There was no border control in those days and people just crossed the border back and forth depending on where work was to be found and where they were needed.

My Dad never knew for sure, and I certainly don’t know now, whether or not his parents (my grandparents) were properly documented in the U.S., leading me to wonder if my father, who turned out to be a great, great American and who helped defend the U.S. in WWII, was one of those so called “anchor babies.” Going back and forth from Mexico to Texas and vice versa, and always being around poor people who spoke only Spanish, resulted in my Dad not learning English until he found himself in the U.S. Army (he was drafted in 1944 at age 20 and was shipped to France in 1945, ultimately landing in Germany sometime in March of 1945).

Gregg Ramos' grandfather,
"Tata Lupe," a Mexican national
who went back and forth
across the border at will,
as was the custom.
His son Luis, Gregg's father,
was born in Texas.
This was not an unusual situation at the time. Our former U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, acknowledged during a CNN interview in 2006 that he too was unsure about the immigration status of his grandparents (who, by the way, hailed from the same part of Northern Mexico – Chihuahua – as my grandparents). Indeed, this was the situation of many, many of the 300,000 plus Mexican-Americans who served in WWII.

So, just a bit of background. Now you can perhaps see why this 14th amendment issue hits so close to home for me.
Editor's Note: Three other Nashvillians with similar stories about an ancestor's immigration status are J.R. Lind, Mack, and Ken Marrero. Click on their names to read their stories.

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