To me, the need for comprehensive immigration reform is a very personal because of my grandparents who were Italian immigrants.
In the year 1900, Albuquerque had a population of only 10,000 people and New Mexico was a territory.
Around 1900, Italy was governed by a very oppressive and corrupt government imposing restrictions on people’s freedoms and unemployment was very high.
According to the manifest of the ship my grandfather Lorenzo Dinelli came to the United States on, he arrived in New York City on March 24, 1900, 12 years before New Mexico became a state.
My grandfather was from Luca, Italy, he was 19 years old, single, he could not read nor write, he could not speak English, his occupation was listed as a “farmer” , he had one piece of luggage, a little money and that was it with dreams of becoming an American citizen.
My grandfather’s ultimate destination was Albuquerque, New Mexico to be with his brother Pietro Dinelli who settled in Albuquerque around 1898.
My grandfather and his brother became American citizens years later as did my grandmother, Rachaelle, who also immigrated from Luca, Italy.
After immigrating to the United States, my grandparents became American citizens, lived in Albuquerque the rest of their lives and lived the American dream.
My grandparents raised two sons, Pete my uncle, who I was named after and Paul my father.
My grandparents also sent their two sons off to fight in World War II.
My Uncle Pete Dinelli paid the ultimate price to fight for and preserve our freedoms and he was killed in action when he stepped on a landmine.
My father Paul Dinelli became a disabled American Army veteran, and he too paid a price with a service connected disability.
During World War II, the United States was at war with Italy and the Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini and the Axis powers including fascist Hitler’s Germany and Imperial Japan and Emperor Hirohito.
A story my father once told me was that before enlisting to fight in World War II, things got so bad for Italian Americans that he remembered federal government officials showing up to my grandparents home to find out if they owned “radios” and any guns and if they still had loyalty to Italy their country of origin.
Also during World War II, internment camps were set up in California for Japanese Americans, which is a shameful chapter in our country’s history of intolerance of minorities, perceived as enemies of the state, even when many were Americans.
I have no doubt my grandparents loved this country unconditionally, understood completely the meaning of our freedoms, what this country is all about and the importance of preserving our way of life and our freedoms.
Our freedoms of religion, free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association and due process of law, presumption of innocence until proven guilty are among the most precious rights we have that so many have fought to preserve and who have given so much for in this country’s history, including members of my own family.