Five minutes as an alien
by Jennifer Cohron
Oct 30, 2011 | 1781 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jennifer Cohron
Jennifer Cohron
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I notified my bosses last week that they might have been harboring an illegal immigrant for the past four and a half years.

I was even more surprised than they were by the news because the alien in question was me.

I temporarily lost my American citizenship when I went to the Walker County Courthouse to renew my car tag.

There were about six people in line when I arrived. I made it to the nice lady at the counter 30 minutes later.

I handed over my paperwork without a word and got ready to finally walk out with my tag.

Then the state said, “Not so fast, Skippy.”

The tag is in my maiden name because I bought my car six months before Zac and I were married. However, the license I presented to the clerk was issued to Jennifer Cohron.

I was informed that I would have to bring in a copy of my marriage license before I could get the tag.

“I need a paper trail showing how you went from Williams to (insert your favorite pronunciation of Cohron here) to prove you’re not an illegal immigrant,” she said in an apologetic tone.

I was speechless and trying to remain calm when she gently reminded me that I could get a copy of my marriage license from another nice lady on the other side of the courthouse if I had been married in Walker County.

I walked across the room as a girl without a country. I was so flustered when I got there that I had to think a second longer than I should have when asked for my wedding date.

My status was quickly confirmed and I was issued a car tag.

I later joked that I wasn’t sure where I would have been deported if it had come to that. I had my fingers crossed for north of the border because the group of Canadians I met in Cordova a few weeks ago seemed like very loving people.

While I am poking fun at my own experience, I do not intend to make light of the situation that actual immigrants face.

Sadly, it was not until I was perceived to be a stranger in this land that I gave some thought to what it must be like for others.

I have been an American since birth and have always been treated as such. It’s unlikely that the clerk or anyone in line behind me that day sincerely questioned my right to be in this country.

However, let’s suppose that my skin had been a little more tan and my English had been laced with a slight Spanish accent.

Would anyone in the room have wanted to throw me behind bars with the other illegal immigrants even if I was actually a second or third generation Hispanic American?

I can recall only one instance in which I have felt like a member of a minority.

When I was a freshman at UAB, I was asked to cover a night meeting of the Black Student Awareness Committee. In a crowded room of about 75 to 100 people, my mother and I were the only ones who were white.

Everyone was polite, but we were still uncomfortable. All eyes seemed to be on us at times. I can only imagine how much harder it would have been to stand there if they had been cursing or spitting in our direction because we were “different.”

Many of us, myself included, give little thought to how we judge people until we are in a position to be judged ourselves.

I recently had a conversation with someone about how you stop being a person once respectable society finds a label for you.

It has to be hard to hold on to your self-confidence once you become a “welfare mom,” a “pregnant teen,” a “drop-out,” an “addict” or have “divorced,” “depressed” or “abortion” stamped on your forehead.

Even I, Miss Blunt is Always Best, keep some things private because I know certain people will look at me differently and I don’t want to deal with that on a daily basis.

Yet those who really love me know the truth and see a soul instead of a stigma.

I am far from an expert on immigration, and I understand that the government is supposed to punish those who break the law.

However, I hope that my five minutes as an alien will remind me to follow the law of love as well as the law of the land.