I grew up in a border town in Arizona and my family would regularly drive to Mexico to get tacos or tortas for dinner. When coming back to the United States, we’d have to wait in a long line of cars as the exhaust from other cars and the heat of the sun tested our family bonds. We’d finally get to the Border Patrol agent who would ask the same question every time: “Is everyone in the vehicle a U.S. citizen?”

The answer was always, “ no.”

As a child, I didn’t really pay attention to this interaction at the border because I was more focused on the Chiclets chewing gum my parents just bought for my siblings and me from the poor kids soliciting along the line of cars. I may have also been distracted by making sure my siblings about stayed on “their side” in the car.

But I will never forget the day I saw Mom hand over her Green Card that had the words “Resident Alien” boldly displayed at the top. I abruptly blurted out, “Mom’s an alien?” My siblings were the only ones who laughed. Mom, Dad and the Border Patrol agent looked at me for a second before the agent ensured that Mom’s Green Card was legit.

My name is Joshua Hamilton. The color of my skin is light. My eyes are green. I used to have brown hair. By all accounts, I am a white American. But Mom’s maiden name is Rosales. Her skin color is dark brown. Her eyes are black. Her hair is curly and black. By all accounts, Mom didn’t appear to be an American.

But to me, she is just Mom. No other qualifiers or characteristics. Just Mom.

Mom potty-trained me, taught me English and Spanish, and made me a functioning human being. (Dad was a big help as well, but this is a Mother’s Day post.) She taught me how to cook, clean and be kind to women. Although she may have just been trying to get me to stop fighting with my sister.

It didn’t matter what Mom looked like or how she spoke. Her citizenship status didn’t make her a good mom. Her love and commitment made her a good mom.

My mom is one in a million. She sacrificed much to give me a better life. She endured much to ensure that I could be successful.

It’s a bizarre experience for people to confuse your mother as your babysitter based on skin tone alone. It’s shocking to hear people refuse to help you and your mom and call her a racist slur. I can’t even fathom what life would be like for me if I was separated from my mom at the border while she was trying to renew her Green Card in the late ‘80s.

Despite all of that, Mom was still Mom and she is still Mom today. I don’t know all of the stories or all of the things she must have encountered in her journey from “Illegal Alien” to “Citizen,” but I know that they made her the strong woman that raised me. I couldn’t ask for a better mom.

Sure, Mom spoke with an accent and didn’t pronounce things correctly. But she always encouraged me to be the best person I could be and spoke to me out of love. She empowered me to be independent, and to be respectful to everyone I encountered.

Not everyone had the same experience that I had. Some are estranged from their mothers. Some never knew their mother. That’s why we need more “moms” in the world. The Church needs godly, strong women who are willing to be a mom for kids who don’t have one.

Mom always encouraged us to invite our friends over for dinner. She wanted to get to know them and wanted to let those kids know that our house was a safe place. Mom always invited all the kids to a birthday party or celebration because she wanted to include everyone. Mom always made sure to say “hi” to every one of my friends, so that they knew she cared about them.

Mom was a mom to my friends. I hope to be just as caring, compassionate and good to my kids’ friends too. I hope to be as good of a cook as my mom. And I hope that I can be as good to my mom now as she was to me back then.