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Mistaken Identity

April 21, 1993

Last July I boarded an Amtrak train headed for Los Angeles in the early morning hours at San Diego station. I had just been released from active duty; I was dressed in civilian attire with a military haircut.

I took a nap, and I was awakened by two Anglo INS agents. I was asked if I was an American citizen in Spanish by one of the agents. I replied, "Si, por que? " The other agent asked for ID so I broke out my military ID and I could see their eyes open. One said, "So you're in the service." I said, "Yes, why? Do I look like I came across the border looking for work or what?" The agent handed my ID back to me and said, "I'm just doing my job." But the real reason was because the color of my skin. Now, if I had been light-skinned with blond hair and blue eyes I would not been asked these questions.

By this time I was upset; I bought a cup of coffee; returning to my seat I heard this vintage lady tell her husband, "That's the wetback the agents were questioning, honey." I felt like I was aboard the KKK train, not Amtrak. Upon arriving at L.A. Union Station I decided to make a complaint to customer relations about my dealings with the INS. The answer I got was the INS has every right to question you. End of conversation. I really felt like a third-class citizen, and like a foreigner in my own homeland the U.S.A., United States of Aztlan.

VICTOR AGUILAR

El Monte

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