A good friend of Sabo PR, Leandro Robles, recently became a U.S. citizen after a 10-year journey from his beloved Argentina to Grand Rapids. With his husband, Ric Roane, at his side, Leandro delivered the following remarks to a packed house of friends and fans celebrating with him the night before his swearing-in Ceremony. In light of the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the White House, that Leandro chose to become a citizen is an affirmation that one man, one administration cannot define us. We wanted to share his inspirational words as our guest blog this week.
Tomorrow I will become an American citizen.
My journey began 10 years ago when I decided to come to this country to pursue more education. It only took filling out countless forms, many medical checkups, many repeat trips to take my biometrics, 3 different kinds of visas, 1 working permit, 2 U.S. Supreme Court decisions and a green card to get to this day. It was a long journey of extreme vetting and thousands of dollars in fees.
I am a swearing-in away from becoming a citizen.
Clearly, I have mixed feelings about becoming a citizen. There are many things I love about this country and many I do not. I love the sense of freedom that previous immigrants like me have experienced, but I do not like the persecution that many NEW immigrants are going through now. I love the sense of opportunity that is out there for all, but I despise the racism that says that opportunity is NOT for all, but only for some.
I like the sense of pride people from the U.S. show when displaying the flag or other patriotic symbols, but I do not like the arrogance when people say, “America is the best country the world has ever known.”
America IS a great country. But let’s not fool ourselves; there are many other great ones. The U.S. is ONLY one of them.
My new citizenship in the U.S., in some respects, feels like a conflict with my now other citizenship in Argentina. I have been wondering for a while how could I be loyal to both countries. The answer is always in the heart! The heart is a place that has a lot of room, and there will always be room in my heart for both my beloved Argentina and now for MY dear United States.
As a very political person, I am deeply disturbed with the current administration of the federal government in Washington, D.C., mainly because it represents a direct threat to the values that I care dearly about and that define me as a human being. I will never abandon my pursuit of Justice, Peace, Respect, Humility, Compassion, Solidarity, Human Rights and Love. But we must remember that this country is NOT defined by the current administration. My father taught me early on as a child that a country is not defined only by its politics.
What defines this country is its people, as well as the values and cultural traditions we all treasure —values and traditions that have come from so very many countries!
This country, for me, is all of those who became my friends and supporters over the past decade. Family is about blood and also about who we choose to relate to when we have something in common. To be a U.S. citizen means that I can now continue to have my American “family” in my life without any risk of administrative restrictions.
To be a citizen is, to me, a compelling call to defend and respect the Constitution and the powers established therein. It means to be more aware that I now have a greater responsibility to defend the democracy that WE THE PEOPLE created. It also means I must respect those who look the other way and choose to entertain themselves doing something else.
To be a citizen means that I have a mandate to work to ensure that opportunities are not only for whites, not only for Christians (or so-called Christians), not only for straight people, not only for rich people, but for all kind of people from every country, background and sexual orientation.
Today, I embrace everything about this country—the good and the bad. I vow to confront injustice in any form–unequal pay and exploitation of women, the hate and racism that are so very present and poison us worse than the lead that poisoned Flint, and the discrimination that I suffer on a daily basis for the way I look and the way I pronounce words. I accept responsibility for the soup kitchens on Division Avenue with all their hopelessness. I recognize clearly the painful and profound economic injustices and disparities that are a knife stabbed in the heart of capitalism. I embrace all of these, for I know that true change can only be possible if we own and confront our own miseries.
But I also embrace and celebrate the good things I have experienced–summers in Michigan, its lakes and hills, its glorious gardens, tailgates parties, the Wolverines from Ann Arbor, the ACLU, dinner with friends, rounds of golf, the YMCA, museums and symphony concerts. I embrace our freedom to say what we want and go where we can afford to. I embrace our history and all the progress we have made in many fields. I embrace our desire to be better and do good for those in need. I embrace Thanksgiving, which means to be truly thankful and share our privileges with others. Especially, I embrace every single one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dreams.
A good country can be defined by the way it treats the weak, the disadvantaged, strangers and the disenfranchised. I will work to create and support a country that treats well particularly these people.
I am deeply honored to be now part of this country. You will find in me a citizen who will actively participate, vote and engage in civic endeavors. I pledge to continue to learn and care about ALL the people who inhabit this land, those who are already here, and those who are yet to come to bring fresh air, new ideas, energy and diversity.