By James R. Owens

Striking up a conversation with people sometimes yields unexpected fruit and fascinating information. This was the case today when I met with Maritza Ulrych.

Mrs Ulriych and her husband own and operate a car wash in a Central Florida town, where I take my car several times a month to have it washed. This morning business at the carwash was slow because it had rained all night, so she had time to talk. I made an off-hand comment about the current political climate in the US and she quickly took over the conversation.

She said she was appalled by the actions of our new president. She was specifically speaking of the Trump Administration’s immigration ban from seven countries in the Middle East. She was visibly angry and sad. As she spoke tears welled up in her eyes. She said the day that she became an American Citizen was “the proudest day in her life,” tears now rolling down her cheeks, then she added, “America is a different place than it was then.”

Maritza Ulrych was born in the Dominican Republic, as Maritza Valdez. She later married a man from Great Britain, became an American citizen, and interestingly, once worked for the man who is now the Ambassador to the United Nations from the Dominican Republic, Francisco A. Cortorreal.

She said she worked under Cortorreal at the embassy in London, she worked in the visa department. She told me she once denied visas to an Egyptian man and his wife who sought to travel to the Dominican Republic. That man, she said, was later suspected to be part of a terrorist attack. Some other details about her work in London were revealed, but I was asked not to write about them. She said it was always wise to act naïve when working with people because they tended to be more open if they thought they were dealing with a person who could be easily fooled.

This, all from a little woman with a Spanish accent who operates a car wash and works 10-14 hours a day in a small Florida town, a woman, who some might see as just another immigrant living off the American Dream. It’s obvious Mrs. Ulrych is much more than that.

She told me Trump’s attempts to secure our borders are fruitless because borders cannot be secured totally. “Every airport is a border,” she said, “and for evil people, nothing is impenetrable.” She is concerned about her children and grandchildren and the world they were going to be living in. “We have to respect the law of the land,” she said, but our president is supposed to work for the people. “We do not work for him,” she said sternly. What Trump and his new government were doing amounted to “bending the wheel of human society,” and that “he lied when he said he was changing the power in Washington and giving it back to the people.

Ulrych acknowledged how Americans had come out to protest, and that it was a good thing. “A collection of thoughts, can create change,” she said. I shook her hand as our conversation ended and said I was proud of her and proud she is an American.

We are all immigrants, unless we are Native Americans, but we have allowed the current administration to turn us into something else, a country we no longer recognize. To those who voted for Trump I can only hope you are beginning to recognize the damage this man has done, and can still do to this country you claim to be a patriot of. If you aren’t beginning to recognize this you are not, and never have been, a patriot of this country; you are a patriot of your own prejudices. A patriot defends the rights of an individual and against the presumed interference of government. You have looked away from everything this country stands for.

Ulrych and her husband had nothing handed to them; they worked hard for what they have. They love America, they love what it stands for, but like myself and many others, they are deeply concerned with what it may become if current trends continue. Trump himself is an immigrant, Ulrych reminds us. “His mother was born in Scotland,” she said.