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Commentary: There is nothing to fear from immigrant families

On Tuesday, I spoke to a group of retirees who I thought would love me, but some clearly didn't because we disagreed on the issue of immigration. In fact, some in my audience seemed to have no idea what to make of me.

One lady who stood out clasped my face in an endearingly aggressive way. Though she admired my green eyes, she doesn't see immigration as the positive that I do.

Between sips of wine, she wanted me to answer for all immigrants: Why was her beauty parlor packed with people jabbering at each other in foreign languages?

When I spoke of how the U.S. Supreme Court had just repudiated most of Arizona's draconian immigration law, another woman refused to believe it. "You must get your news from NBC," she snapped.

Yikes. An easy talk before a group of big-time Bee readers was turning testy and awkward.

Some seemed perplexed by my main message: That some of us retained the language of our parents out of cultural pride, but we are nevertheless firmly American.

I should have told the woman that clasped my face that her beauty parlor is packed with immigrants because immigrants – especially some from Vietnam – have made big investments in nail salons and beauty parlors.

Mark my words: Those salons will bankroll tomorrow's Steve Jobs. The children of immigrants assimilate. We are the reason GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney now has lockjaw on the immigration issue.

Romney made big points talking tough on immigration earlier this year to people like the lady who confronted me Tuesday – he played to her fears that the country she knew was changing for the worse.

But now Mitt is bumbling and stumbling because has to deal with me. He needs my vote. And you know, Mitt, you're not going to get it. You don't get to use my family as a scapegoat for America's problems.

My family – my brother, cousins, aunts and uncles – pays our taxes, votes, serves in the military and loves America.

We were raised by people who spoke Spanish, but now we speak English – and there was nothing dirty or illegal about our American evolution.

So how did I leave it with my reluctant audience? Very well. We disagreed but we ate together. God bless America.

I'm not mad at the lady who grabbed my face. Immigration did a lot to change the country in the last 40 years. As a response, some states like California and Arizona tried to pass mean-spirited laws that ultimately were struck down by the courts.

Between that and Romney rolling back his immigration vitriol, our country is changing for the better.

The lady who grabbed my face shouldn't worry. I love America as much as she does, and I can proclaim my love in two languages: ¡Viva los Estados Unidos!