By Abe Villarreal
A few months ago, I was watching cable news late at night. I saw an alert appear on the screen. The blonde lady speaking to me looked really tense. She shared that there were reports of an impending invasion. I thought to myself, “An invasion, how could this be?”

Those kinds of things don’t happen in the United States. She said it was a caravan of hundreds, maybe thousands of people from tiny countries thousands of miles away. They were coming, and no one was stopping them. It was late at night. I fell asleep listening to this alarming news.

A couple of weeks passed and the drumbeat continued. The invasion was almost near. There seemed to be nothing we could do to stop them. Each night that I tuned in, the pretty blonde news lady kept saying phrases like “criminals” and “diseases.” I didn’t understand because America has the strongest military in the world and we can usually stop scary moments like these.

The alerts became a daily occurrence. I felt like we were about to enter into war with someone, but who? Usually, it’s easy to explain our enemies. They are people that think the opposite of us and want to end our way of life. They believe in a different God and often want to limit the rights we hold precious.

But that wasn’t the case now. The people that were coming look like a lot of us. They speak the language that many of us speak, and they come from countries within our same continent. They start from one side of America hoping to end in another.

Then it happened. The invasion began. They arrived at our southern border. The late-night alerts showed pictures of them jumping over walls and sprinting. The blonde news lady was angry, and she said that they were bringing drugs and were uneducated. It started to feel like they really were different from us, which started making many of us nervous.

Things started to become confusing. The news lady was using frightening words, but the city newspaper was saying something different. When I flipped the channel to the local news, people I recognized as neighbors and community leaders were asking us for help. They said they needed food and clothing donations for the invaders. The people they talked about seemed humble and meek.

They didn’t carry weapons or break into stores. Many of them had traveled for over 2,000 miles. They were moms nursing babies, and toddlers who left their bedrooms to find new ones in a place they had never seen. They were old men with layers of exhaustion painted on their faces.

The invaders walked slowly and looked down. They had only the clothes on their back and weren’t asking to take away our stuff. Little by little, we started to change our minds about them.

And then a young dad and a 23-month old girl showed up right at our footsteps. Their arrival forced us to stop and pay attention. What the blonde news lady said was not true. They weren't enemies and they didn't want to hurt us. A dad and his little girl, face down in water, told us the real story and became a painful reminder that when we listen to people with cold hearts and closed minds, we become the kind of people we used to fight.

We opened our door too late for a dad and his baby who were knocking for too long that they were drowned by the callousness of our patriotism.

Abe Villarreal writes about life and culture in southern New Mexico. He can be reached at abevillarreal@hotmail.com.