Blog Archive

Monday, June 02, 2008

Immigrants, Aliens, Dreams

First, I want to apologize for the long delay between posts. I wasn't feeling well last week and then went out of town over the weekend. I'm still not really 100 percent, so I'll let Greg Michie do the heavy lifting today.

About a month ago, Greg posted a reflection on the Teaching Excellence Network website about the DREAM Act and how badly we need it to help undocumented youth have a reason to pursue academic excellence. Greg used to teach here in Back of the Yards. Here's a little of what he had to say about their chances of going to college:

I tried to help my students see college as a real possibility down the road. And I tried to impress upon them that, clich├ęd or not, working hard and doing well academically would give them more options after high school.

Turns out that I lied.

You see, most of my former students are from Mexican immigrant families, and some—more than I realized at the time—are undocumented. So even if they remain focused, stay out of trouble, study, and graduate from high school with exceptional grades, going to college is still a long shot at best. For many, it’s simply not possible.

Along with Greg, Senator Dick Durbin and many others, I've said it before and I'll say it again: children who were brought to this country by adults should not be penalized for decisions over which they had no control. The United States should not waste the talent, intelligence and energy of these young people by preventing them from going to college and building a life in the only country many of them have ever really known. Local communities like Back of the Yards are held back when our youth are told they can't pursue their dreams to the fullest. The DREAM Act would fix this by giving young people who arrived here before age 16, have lived here for five years, stayed out of trouble and completed high school conditional legal status while pursuing college or the military. Whatever else you think about broader issues of immigration, this looks to me like a winner for everyone.

It also took me until just now to post a comment that came in about Brady Girl's Radio Arte essays. Here's what Andrea had to say:

She is describing illegal aliens, not immigrants. What honestly amazes me is that (1) she doesn’t seem to be aware of the difference and (2) you don’t point that out in this post.

It pains me to state the obvious, but even though I wasn’t “born here” I “have health insurance”, “get paid like actual citizens” and was “able to get a visa to go and visit family”.

Defenders of illegal immigration, who can’t or won’t see the difference between having “papers” and not having them, put off people (like me) who do and end up hurting their own cause.

I responded to Andrea back at the Brady Girl 2 post--feel free to check back. My basic point was that I've personally known way too many people who have fallen in and out of legal immigration status for various bureaucratic reasons, to the point where I don't personally see the line as starkly as Andrea does. People who come to one country from another are immigrants; sometimes they are in the country legally, sometimes not. I myself came pretty close to being an illegal alien in France--I had to leave briefly in the middle of my stay and come back on a new 3-month tourist visa in order to reside there legally.

By the way, the immigration committee at Holy Cross/IHM appears to be gearing up for some new activity. Stay tuned.

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