The Illegals by Tom Gumbert

The limo slowed as they approached the security gate and her thoughts turned to the interview. She was scheduled for an hour that would ultimately produce between 10-15 minutes of airtime—prime-time airtime with Barbara Walters.

She smiled at the thought of meeting, talking to and being interviewed by one of her idols. Could it get any better? Maybe if it was Oprah. But Barbara Walters was big-time.

It had been three days since her cell phone buzzed with a text message from George. She remembered quickly reading the message. The trial is over. Now it’s in the hands of the judges.

The limo made its way through the underground garage stopping in front of a small group of people. Rachel, the person PR firm Baker and Roach had put in charge of this tour, was waiting in front. Next to her stood a smart-looking thirty-something woman in a designer suit with a CBS lapel pin and behind them were three younger people, probably interns or assistants.

Winston opened her door and gave her his widest smile as he offered his hand in assisting her out. She smiled as she exited the limo and stepped forward, offering Rachel her hand in greeting.

“I hope all is well this morning,” Rachel said as she shook hands with Mary.

“Absolutely,” Mary replied.

“Great. Mary, I’d like you to meet Cassandra Williams. Cassandra will make sure that your pre- and post-interview needs are met.”

Cassandra stepped forward, offered her perfectly manicured hand and a smile and said, “Wonderful to meet you Mary, now if you would follow me.”

As they rode up in the elevator, Cassandra explained the schedule and the rules for the interview. Barbara was, of course, in charge of the interview and ultimately CBS would decide the footage to be used. “If at any time you need a break, simply request one. Remember though that until you hear ‘Cut,’ the cameras will still be rolling.”

She would be going to make-up first, then to the ‘green room’ waiting area. “There’s bottled spring water and fresh fruit. Let me know if you require anything else,” Cassandra said.

Rachel went over possible questions and answers as Mary underwent make-up. Mary’s responses were quick, articulate and poignant. “You’re all set,” the make-up artist said cheerfully. “I agree,” Rachel said as she gently squeezed Mary’s shoulder.

She was only in the green room a minute when Cassandra appeared. She’d barely had enough time to read the cards on the two flower arrangements, one from George and the other from her parents. “Okay, it’s time,” Cassandra said and led Mary down a hall and into a studio where two leather chairs faced each other on a royal blue carpet surrounded by lights and cameras.

Immediately after final preparations for light and sound, Barbara appeared. Wow, this is really happening. Mary stood and offered her hand to the approaching Walters.

“Ms. Blackrock, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” Mary answered, “and please call me Mary.”

“Excellent,” Barbara answered as they took their seats. “Do you mind if we go over some of the background?”

“Five minutes,” the set manager called.

The questions were innocuous and Mary realized, designed to put her at ease. She wouldn’t call her state of being, nervous, but rather heightened. She felt electric. This would be the most important moment in her life to date and she was going to make the most of it.

“One minute,” the set manager called.

“You look wonderful,” Barbara said smiling at her.

“Thank you,” Mary answered as she adjusted her silver cross necklace. It was all Rachel, she thought, considering her burgundy suit with white blouse. She rearranged her sitting position and smoothed her skirt with one hand.

“Ten seconds—five, four, three,” the voice countdown now replaced by hand signals.

Barbara launched into her welcoming remarks, impeccably professional as always. I hope I’m as confident and professional as she is.

“Mary Blackrock, your firm, Arrowwood, Rainwater & Elk is currently involved in litigation that has the potential to change the immigration system of the United States. Would you please provide a summary of The Confederation of Indigenous American People vs the United States?”

"Native American Heritage Day" (photo by Grand Canyon NPS)

“Absolutely,” Mary answered. “The case involves the plaintiff’s contention that as the indigenous people of the this land, and a sovereign nation within this nation as recognized by Federal law, we should have sole rights over immigration law.”

“So you are saying that this is about the right to determine who can and cannot legally enter the country?”

“Yes,” Mary answered before adding “grandfathered back to 1564.”

“Grandfathered back to 1564, why then?”

“We feel that our rights precede that date, however we chose 1564 as it was the year prior to the Europeans establishing a permanent settlement on this continent.”

“You are referring to Saint Augustine being settled by the Spanish in 1565?”

“Correct.”

“I see. And if you are successful in gaining legal recognition of this right, what do you hope to accomplish?”

“We hope to regain our historical right to control our destiny and the path of this great land.”

“Do you realistically think that this nations’ courts will overturn centuries of precedent by finding in your favor?”

Mary hesitated. “The law favors our cause and morally we are justified, however our historical interaction with the European settlers and the governments that represent them have proven that law and morality are irrelevant when it comes to dealing with our people.”

“So you don’t feel you will win this legal battle?”

“We are realistic as to our challenge. We are also prepared in the event that we do win and we recognize those challenges as well.”

“Let’s talk about those challenges. If the Federal District Court in Cincinnati rules in favor of the Confederation of Indigenous People, how will immigration law change?”

Mary’s voice was strong and velvety. “We expect that whatever the outcome in District Court, ultimately this case will be decided before the Supreme Court. That said, if the Confederation ultimately wins, then control over the borders and the immigration laws would immediately revert to the indigenous people.”

“And the Indigenous People would be responsible for dealing with the problem of illegal immigration.” Barbara noted.

“Yes, only on a much grander scale.”

“How so?” Barbara asked, her eyebrows rising.

“Everyone not descended from the Indigenous People would be considered an ‘Illegal,’” Mary answered evenly.

“So if I understand you correctly, in addition to people who have entered this country illegally during their lifetime, you would consider the vast majority of current residents—the legal citizens born in this country and those who have immigrated legally, to be ‘Illegals?’”

“Our contention is that all non-indigenous people either came here illegally or are descendents of illegal immigrants. In keeping consistent with recent immigration laws, those born in this country to illegal immigrants are to be considered illegals themselves.”

“Your earlier statement of the illegal immigration problem being on a grander scale was certainly not hyperbole,” Barbara stated. “Is your plan the mass deportation of non-indigenous people?”

“Not at all,” Mary said shaking her head. “We would love it if everyone stayed but we are realist and know that not everyone will complete the path to citizenship, so we do expect a number of deportations.”

“Any idea what that number would be? Perhaps you have a projected percentage of those who will ultimately be deported?”

Mary’s long black hair shone in the lights as she shook her head. “We really don’t have an educated guess and to project random numbers would be irresponsible. As our history proves, we are not an irresponsible people.”

“So if your legal battle is successful, I will be declared an illegal immigrant,” Barbara stated. “What is my path to citizenship?”

“Again, for the sake of consistency with recent immigration law we would follow many of the same rules that currently exist. First, you would need to learn our language.”

“Your native tongue?” Barbara gasped.

“That is correct,” Mary said, managing to keep a smile from appearing though her eyes sparkled at Barbara’s reaction.

“Which one, I mean, you’re a confederation so by definition you are many groups of indigenous people. Will I be required to learn ALL of your languages?”

“Not at all,” Mary assured her the smile now appearing. “You will only need to learn one language and you will be able to decide if that language is to be of the indigenous people in the area you were born or the area you currently reside. We are a fair people.”

“And how long will I have to learn the new language?”

“We understand that change is difficult, particularly for adults and we have developed a timeline and standard that reflects our generous nature. The path to citizenship requires that the language be learned within five years and only to the level of a young adult. It is our equivalent to your six grade level,” Mary stated. “We would also make our curriculum available to the Department of Education to assist with the education of children, though we are confident they will learn at an accelerated rate.”

“Assuming I learn the language in sufficient time, and by no means is that assured,” Barbara said smiling, “what else will the path of citizenship entail?”

“Currently immigration law requires successfully passing a 100 question test on the subject of United States government and history. We would keep that test, however we would add an additional test on the subject of Native American history and culture. Also the oath of citizenship will include a pledge of non-violence against fellow citizens and visitors to this country.”

“That’s very interesting,” Barbara said leaning slightly forward in her chair. “My research indicates that violence against Native American women on reservations is very high. Is there anything in your planned immigration law changes that would address that?”

“As direct descendants of indigenous people, all ‘Native Americans’ would be granted citizenship without having to embark on the path. However we would make violent offenses by adults punishable by loss of citizenship regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or any other factor.”

“I see. You don’t consider that maybe a bit extreme?”

“As a people who have been negatively affected by violence throughout our history, both from internal and external forces, we know that there is no place for violence within a culture.”

“If you had to use one word to sum up what you believe is the key to successful implementation of your changes, what would it be?”

“Coexist,” Mary answered without hesitation.

Barbara placed her hand to ear, her ring sparkling in the set lights. She nodded once before her eyes settled on Mary. “The decision is in.”

Tom Gumbert lives near Cincinnati, OH with his wife, Andy, and when not working, he enjoys writing, reading and watching movies. Tom has always been interested in history and how it affects current events. He also has an interest in tolerance and intolerance throughout history, which is the theme of an anthology he is currently working on. In addition to “The Illegals,” his short story “SIM Jim” should be published by the time this appears.