Peas of the Same Pod

Posted on July 6, 2021 By

by Elena Muller Garcia, M.A. in Religious Studies


About ten years ago one of my co-workers approached my desk and began to address me by saying:

“Did you see those illegals — ”

I stopped him abruptly midsentence.

“Calling undocumented immigrants ‘illegals’ is the same as calling the unborn child a ‘fetus’. Both terms are used to veil their humanity,” I said. He listened and went back to his desk.

Although this might seem to be an insignificant conversation, the demeaning way in which he said “illegal” still rings in my ears. My dear co-worker was then, and still is, a committed Catholic and an ardent pro-lifer. The sharp contrast between what I knew to be his pro-life advocacy and his abrupt anti-immigrant rant, which I managed to stop that day, saddened and worried me. Unfortunately, he was not alone in his inconsistency. Worse yet, ten years later the tear in what should be a consistent advocacy both for the immigrant person and the preborn child has exponentially widened.

Elena Muller Garcia in front of the Angels Unawares sculpture


As I remember this incident, several life experiences coalesce in my mind. All Americans, except native Americans, have an immigrant ancestor somewhere on their family tree, but I am the immigrant on mine. I was also an unplanned child. In addition, doing post-graduate work at the University of Miami in the 1970s had led me to do research on the personhood of the unborn child. I still remember some of the arguments that were proposed then to justify abortion by denying personhood to the early embryo, describing it as a blob of protoplasm or by comparing the fetus to an unconscious violinist attached to an unwilling person for nine months.

Unaccompanied Minor

 I have shared my experience of arriving in the United States as an unaccompanied minor in different venues and publications. Although I initially did not want to leave my native country, Cuba, much less without my parents, I eventually agreed to do so and left the island when I was thirteen years old. I am one of more than 14,000 children who left Cuba and arrived in the United States thanks to Operation Pedro Pan between late December of 1960 and mid-October of 1962. This was a transformative experience, many times painful but also at times joyful, that constitutes part of the core of the person I am today, sixty years later. Early on I came across John F. Kennedy’s A Nation of Immigrants. In the midst of my deep longing to be with my parents who stayed behind in Cuba for three more years, and the intense feeling of rootlessness that sometimes overwhelmed me, the book helped alleviate my pain. It made me feel welcome in what eventually became my adopted country. I don’t recall in great detail the content of the book itself. Remembering the title, even to this day, helps sustain my welcoming attitude towards today’s immigrants.

Unplanned Child

 I do not often share my experience of first suspecting and then confirming that I was an unplanned child. I had a happy childhood in Havana, Cuba. I was the fourth child and only girl. I loved my parents and my siblings. My life centered on my family, my school, my friends, and my Catholic faith. My family life contrasted sharply with the political unrest that had plagued the island nation and had come to a seeming end on January 1, 1959, when the dictatorship of President Batista ended. Tragically, the autocracy only replicated itself in a more virulent strain with the Castro-Communist takeover, which is the reason why I left Cuba, followed, one by one, by each of my brothers and three years later by my parents.

As I was trying to become acclimated to my new country, in the early sixties, the sexual revolution was well underway as well as concern about overpopulation. I used to dream of someday having a large family. If it was true that human population was a threat to civilization and to the planet, then it was not advisable for me to fulfill that dream. Two opposing views were published in 1968: the much-maligned encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI and Paul Ehrlich’s best seller The Population Bomb: Population Control or Race to Oblivion. Although the encyclical and the book are diametrically opposed as far as what course of action should be taken, Paul VI expressed concerns about overpopulation. I read the encyclical but not the book. Thus I became interested in natural family planning. It was then that I started suspecting that I had been an unplanned child myself since I was the caboose child. In Cuba my parents had been able to make ends meet, but that was it. We lived on a shoestring budget although my Dad worked two jobs and my Mom worked outside the home too.

I moved in with my parents again several years after they immigrated to the United States, but I did not ask my mother the question. I harbored a fear that confirming that I was unplanned would devastate my self-esteem. Decades later when I was studying to become a certified teacher of natural family planning I gathered my courage and asked her: “Mami, was I planned?” Her quick answer did not surprise me: “No, you were not planned.” What surprised me was my reaction. Far from feeling shattered, I felt elated by a deep sense of worthiness and freedom. In twelve-step program terms, I realized I was here because of a higher power. I was also overcome by a deep sense of gratitude towards my parents who, though I was unplanned, never made me feel unwanted and always took loving care of me.

Two Strikes Against Me

 Sometimes I feel that if I were an immigrant today, I would not be admitted in the United States and that, since I was the fourth and unplanned child, if I had been conceived today, I would probably have been aborted. My personal experience makes me pro-immigrant and pro-unborn child. Unfortunately, as I experienced that morning years ago when my pro-life co-worker started to berate illegal immigrants, many people do not see the connection. For many, one can be pro-life and anti-immigrant, and for many others one can be pro-immigrant and pro-abortion.

In general, pro-lifers who are anti-immigrant will make a big fuss about being “pro-legal immigrants,” but instead of advocating for a change in our immigration system that would allow for more immigrants to come here legally, they tend to support greater and greater restrictions to legal immigration and initiatives for the building of walls. I was able to come to the United States legally because the United States government created a visa waiver program for Cubans fleeing Communism which is to say, because immigration laws changed. Immigration laws should be changed to answer the needs of today’s migrants.

Pro-immigrant advocates who are pro-abortion will not admit to being so. They will claim to be pro-choice. I have to admit that in recent years I have come to see that there is some daylight between being pro-abortion and being pro-choice. However, the pro-choice position would still not protect me if I were to be an unplanned child in the womb today. The legal status-quo should change to provide more protections, not less, to the bond between pregnant mother and pre-born child.

Peas in the Same Pod

Apart from my personal conviction that pro-immigration and pro-life belong together, is there an objective connection between the anti-immigration and the pro-abortion movements? There is. The pod that contains these two peas is the population control movement. Not pretending to give exhaustive proof, let me just mention one internet site.

The Overpopulation Project lists organizations around the globe concerned with the issue. I would like to point out two of many listed under America.

 Numbers USA is a foundation “providing a civil forum for Americans of all political and ethnic backgrounds to focus on a single issue, the proper numerical level of U.S. immigration. The group favors reductions in immigration numbers toward traditional levels that would stabilize the U.S. population.”

 Negative Population Growth is described as a national nonprofit membership organization aiming “to educate the American public and political leaders about the devastating effects of overpopulation on the environment, natural resources and the overall standard of living. They advocate for a significant reduction in current population numbers in the U.S.”

The Kissinger Report of 1974 includes this mantra: “No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion.”

Ken Cuccinelli, who was acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Trump administration, had joined in 2007 a group called State Legislators for Legal Immigration. Shortly after he joined the association it issued a statement asking that then President George Bush “terminate” illegal alien invasion to protect Americans.

Terminating the life of the unborn child and terminating the flow of immigration fit snugly into the same pod.


For more of our posts that include immigration policy, see: 

Children in Cages

Would My Grandparents Have Died in the Pogroms?




  1. This powerful personal reflection reminds me of a horribly tragic situation that was in the news a few years ago, when a pregnant teenager crossed the US-Mexico border seeking an abortion. The tragedy was only compounded by how the “pro-life, anti-immigrant” and “pro-immigrant, pro-abortion” crowds got all too predictably in line.
    I wrote this lament in response:

    • Elena Muller Garcia says:

      I remember that tragic situation. Thanks for sharing the piece you wrote then.

    • Ms. Boomer-ang says:

      I remember the situation too. The reports I read did not make clear whether it was actually the girl who was “seeking” the abortion but a social worker or other “aid worker” who came across her.

      But the situation led me to wonder:

      Suppose two scenarios for a pregnant woman or girl from Latin America who crosses the US-Mexico border .

      1. Americans tell her: “We’ll let you stay in the US so that you will give birth in a US hospital and your baby will receive the standard treatments that US newborns receive. But about a week after recovering from the birth, we’re going to deport you to your home country. True the baby will be a US citizen. But if you want it to stay in the US, you must separate from it. If you want it with you, it goes back to your country.”

      2. Americans tell her: “We’ll let you stay in the US permanently, give you a scholarship for education and job training, and expedite your getting a green card: provided you let a doctor kill your baby. It’s part of aculteration to the United States. If you insist on keeping your unwantable complication alive, you will be deported.”

      Of those two possibilities, which sounds more liberal?

      • Elena Muller Garcia says:

        It would depend on how one defines “liberal.” If the question is changed to “which one is just?” The answer would be, “neither one.”

  2. martha crean says:

    thank you so much for drawing comparisons between the dehumanizing vocabulary
    fetus, illegals, unwanted, a vegetable, et cetera.
    years ago three young female university studenta in toronto
    started a newspaper called The Uncertified Human.
    referring exactly to the power of language to predetermine thought, and ultimately treatment.
    where is this wonderful statue locatedI. I know this quote from Emily Dickenson

    • Elena Muller Garcia says:

      The original Angels Unaware sculpture was installed at St. Peter’s Square in 2019. It was inaugurated by Pope Francis to celebrate World Refugee Day that year. The one pictured here is an exact replica that has been travelling through several cities in North America. The statue was installed at Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida in February of this year and remained there until early April. We were fortunate to see it there. Its permanent home will be the Catholic University of America. The statue is the work of Canadian artist Timothy Schmaltz. It is indeed wonderful. The title comes from a biblical reference “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2.

  3. Cody Marks says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and being honest and reflective. These are conversations that need to be had, and I feel that being consistent does involve protecting the unborn and immigrants alike.

  4. Ms. Boomer-ang says:

    This reflection brings up a lot of good points:

    The difference between “anti-abortion” and “anti-choice.” “Anti-choice” is too broad a term to describe opponents of abortion, because it includes fascists who are anti-choice but pro-abortion. Likewise, “pro-choice” is too narrow a term for abortion advocates, even those who reject partnering with the fascists. If someone calls themselves “pro-choice,” one could ask them whether they would let a 14-year-old atheist carry a pregnancy to term against her parents wishes.

    Some “liberals,” for all their efforts to allow immigrants into the country, get turned off when they get settled into this country and support “cultural conservative/ obsolete/ defeated” norms.

    I believe that population reduction should not be a goal. Environmental problems are caused not by the NUMBER of people on this planet but that each person uses– sometimes has no choice but to use — more resources, which emit more carbon and pollution per capita. Environmental progress should focus on reducing per capita pollution causes, not the number of people.

    A few years ago a NY Times article (I forget whether in the main paper or the magazine) told about an elderly Japanese American who in World War II had been interned in a US concentration camp and, nevertheless, supported severe restrictions on people trying to enter the US from Mexico. Victims sometimes seize opportunities to become victimizers. There could be a discussion about this.

    • Elena Muller Garcia says:

      You make good points.

      I have not personally talked with any liberal person disappointed with immigrants who turn out to have conservative values. I do have a conservative friend who insists that the only reason liberals want to allow immigrants in the country is to increase membership in their political party. I have not found evidence for this, but I have not done serious research on it.

      I agree that population reduction is not a good idea. I found many websites when I was doing research for this article that are advocating for population control. Some people have told me that is no longer a problem. However, there are some diehard population controllers who are still advocating for it. I think this needs to be brought to light.

      Regarding the elderly Japanese American – sadly the story repeats itself. I have had personal conversations with immigrants who advocate for severe restrictions on new immigrants coming in. This way of thinking baffles me and breaks my heart.

  5. Ms. Boomer-ang says:

    Something else.

    This article brings to mind two acquaintances.

    One is a caboose child, born when population control was considered a duty (as you mention, the ZPG era),
    born into an identity group that has strictly embraced abortion, the fourth child in a family, born too shortly before Roe not to wonder what would have happened if it had happened only a little sooner. Furthermore, at least one of this individual’s parents was also a caboose child whose life also might have been saved by a ban on abortion in place then.

    I don’t know whether this individual has discussed this with the mother. I don’t know how the mother feels. Some woman in her identity group loudly chant for abortion but quietly think, ‘Thank heaven I had my last child already before Roe.’ I don’t know if this is the case here.

    Nevertheless, this individual’s first job after graduating from college was as an abortionist.

    The other acquaintance was a teacher in California who constantly complained about immigrants, especially those latinas who did not limit their family size and the resulting children. I believe his school and maybe even his class was full of latinx immigrants (legal and undocumented) and children of those immigrants. I don’t know whether he expressed his contempt for them in class and whether his students knew of his prejudices. I don’t know if he made exceptions for those “smart enough” to join his class. But can you imagine the feelings of a student who somehow learned of his prejudices?

  6. Elena Muller Garcia says:

    Thanks for sharing about your two acquaintances. Let me just add this. In the early nineties I used to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Another volunteer who worked next to me would make it a point to encourage every woman she served – black, brown, American, Mexican- to “get her tubes tied.”

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