Just how long is your immigration timeline?

What difference does a day make? That’s what demonstrators across the nation - and particularly in San Diego - were wondering, after a large-scale boycott of work, school and shopping was orchestrated Monday, May 1.

The main issue is one being debated in Congress now, about grant-ing legal status to the millions of immigrants currently living in the United States. The original impetus of the demonstration was an economic one, aimed at showing how much immigrants contribute to the finanical health of this country.

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in a show of solidarity. Thousands of shops closed their doors. Students stayed home from school and away from the malls.

But, the demonstration was not a realistic display. In order to show just how much impact immigrants have on this country, all of us would have had to stay home.

If you go back on a long enough timeline, we are all from someplace else. Our ancestors may have stepped foot on American soil hundreds of years ago or we may have just touched down in a 747 yesterday, but all of us have roots extending to other lands.

And that’s what makes our country so culturally rich and diverse. We all add something unique to the pot, whether it’s innovative medical practices, a delicious recipe, religious beliefs or words from poets in a romantic language.

Indeed, we can’t even say the name of our seaside community without Spanish.

What this debate comes down to is time, about how long we or our relatives must live in this country before we have a right to be here. Those of us whose ancestors landed on Plymouth Rock were not subjected to immigration restrictions. But those of us who may have struggled mightily to make a home in a country other than that of our birth are interrogated, scrutinized and, many times, turned away.

Obviously, if things were safe and stable in the rest of the world, there would be little immigration. And if we worried night after night about how to feed our children or whether our home would be hit by mortar fire, we would rightfully leave this country for a better life elsewhere. We don’t choose where we are born but, luckily, we can choose where we call home.

We are all immigrants. We are friends and relatives. We are teachers and doctors and politicians. We are students and homemakers and we help feed the families that make up this great nation. The next time you put a face on the immigration debate, look in the mirror.