I want to tell you a story that, until I decided to pen this column, very, very few people knew about me: I don’t know my name.
Before I was married, I thought my name was Kasie McNutt. After all, that’s what my birth certificate says, born in the great state of Florida in 1981.
I don’t remember living in Florida, my parents moved the family up to Ohio before my first birthday and then up further to Michigan.
I don’t identify as a “Floridian” — I don’t cheer for any major league sport teams out of the state, I can’t stand NASCAR and quite honestly, I’m not a huge fan of citrus fruit.
I’m a Michigander — maybe an Ohioan … Or, I thought I was. For a long time.
In high school, my parents sat me down and told me the truth: I was not a Floridian, I was not an Ohioan and I was not a Michigander. Hell, I wasn’t even an American.
As it turned out, I was a Canadian.
My family lived in Sarnia, Ontario which is just a stone’s throw across the St. Clair River from the Michigan shoreline.
Seriously, it’s 300 yards away — I drive further to Walmart.
Anyway, my dad had a friend who had a job opportunity for him, there was just one catch: it was in the States. My parents were newlyweds and I was only a few months old when he decided he wasn’t going to let a simple thing like “citizenship” prevent him from providing for his family.
He packed up a U-Haul, stuffed us in the cab, and we came on over.
This was not a clandestine border crossing, this was in the early 80’s and customs checkpoints at borders weren’t really all that strictly enforced.
Back then — actually all the way up until 9/11 — you didn’t even need a passport to go between Canada and America. People went back and forth all the time. It just wasn’t a big deal.
The point of crossing for my family ended up being the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan where we traveled — unquestioned — dragging a U-Haul trailer filled with all of our belongings.
Once here, my dad’s friend provided him with documentation (birth certificates, Social Security cards, etc.) for my parents and myself.
And, at roughly 6-months-old, I became “Kasie McNutt.” American.
As I understood it at the time, my parents documents were straight up faked. As adults, it was unlikely they would run into many situations where they would be scrutinized at any serious level. Also, it was important as a family that our names all match.
My paperwork was real — it just wasn’t “mine.” A baby — close to my age — was born and had died in Florida. Her name was Kasie McNutt. A few letters sent to the county health department later and bam, I had a birth certificate — and a new name.
I remember asking my mom what my real name was and she told me that it didn’t matter anymore, they had been calling me “Kasie” for so long that at this point, it was my name.
My parents didn’t apply for legal status in this country until just a few years ago, by which time I and my brothers (who were born here and are “real” Americans) were grown, married and off living our own lives.
I never have.
I am married to an American and have two American sons. I went to high school and college, I pay taxes and own a home. I drive, I vote and in case you were wondering, I cheer for the Cleveland Browns — not that it helps.
I have no emotional ties to Canada, I’m sketchy (at best) on its geography and history and despite Mme. DeGuile’s best efforts in high school, I don’t speak a word of French.
I do like hockey …
So, what makes an American?
I didn’t ask to come here, I was a baby. I didn’t even know I wasn’t from here until I was 17.
By all accounts, I’m an upstanding citizen — except, technically, I’m not — a citizen that is. Do I deserve to be deported to a country I don’t know? To a land where I have no family? No job? No home? No friends?
Should I be shipped off back North simply because I was born on the wrong side of some imaginary line to a place I don’t even remember?
Because that is exactly what is about to happen to a million people in situations like the one I just described — with one difference: they didn’t come from Canada, they came from Mexico.
Wait, did she just make up that entire backstory?
Yes. Except for the part about disliking NASCAR. That’s totally true.
But here’s why: The Dreamers are real. They are real people, with real lives that had no say over how they came to be in this country.
And yet, they have embraced it and become part of it.
To extend the hand of friendship and citizenship to them only to snatch it away and deport them is cruel beyond measure.
We’re better than this, we’re Americans.
All of us.