Well, since I always talk about my name, let me get back to the name of David Rodríguez. Well, actually, David Diego Rodríguez. I bring it up again because I plan on going to Mexico in July with my sons. And every American citizen needs a U.S. Passport to return to the U.S.
So, I had to apply for passports for all three of my sons who are natural citizen by virtue of having been born in Chicago, Illinois. Two of the three passports were immediately processed by U.S. Department of State. The one for my son with my name caused a delay. Apparently, they needed more documentation for him. I guess there are just too many David Rodríguezes. He’s only 18, so he doesn’t have a credit history, a driver license, or a credit card. They needed more proof to verify his identity. I wasn’t sure what they wanted or what other documentation I could provide. One of the enclosures listed in the letter was a Supplemental Identification List, which they had forgotten to enclose. I sent everything I could think of, including photocopies of his state ID, his school ID, his W-2 forms, federal tax return, state tax return, a prescription label with his name and address. I was extremely relieved when they accepted the enclosed documentation. I finally received his passport yesterday. We’re all set to go to Mexico now.
I remember when I went to Mexico in 1978, things were so much different. I had forgotten how to speak Spanish. I still understood it, but I never had to speak it much in Chicago. I stayed in Mexico for about a month and so I quickly learned to speak Spanish again. However, when I returned to Chicago, I had trouble speaking English again. I flew back on Mexicana Airlines and when I was in Customs at O’Hare Airport the agent asked me for my proof of citizenship. All I had was my driver’s license and birth certificate. I gave them to him and then I worried that they wouldn’t let me go back to Chicago. You see, my driver’s license didn’t have a picture of me. Back then, they were printed on thin cardboard and only described the driver as 5’8″, 128 Lbs., BRN Hair, BRN Eyes. My birth certificate didn’t have much information on it either and my last name was misspelled as, “Rodriquez” with a “q” instead of “g.” (My mother never thought the mistake was important enough to correct when she received my birth certificate in the mail soon after I was born.) The agent looked at my documents carefully and asked me if I had anything to declare. I understood him perfectly, but I couldn’t form the words in English. I thought for sure that I would be detained by the authorities because I couldn’t make myself speak my fluent south side English. But miraculously, he let me through. I could then understand how there were so many illegal immigrants from many countries in the U.S.
When I went to Mexico last December, it was a little more difficult to enter Mexico. I handed my passport to the agent and he entered the information on a computer. He asked me some questions and when I answered them satisfactorily, he let me back into the U.S. Then about 60 miles into the U.S. there was another checkpoint where I had to present my passport again and answer some more questions. I think they mainly asked me the questions to see if I really spoke English to prove I was a U.S. citizen. The agent spoke quickly and slurred his words together as if to test my knowledge of English. Either that or he was just bored of his job and just going through the motions. He asked me where I was from. When I said Chicago, he asked, “Born and raised there?” “No. I was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.” I suppose that if someone didn’t speak English well, they wouldn’t have been able to answer those questions, raising suspicions. I was just glad that I didn’t have trouble speaking English this time.