Illegal immigration is another hot topic this year in the election. Everybody has their opinion or points of view on this issue. Some people are for the legalization of illegal immigrants who are already here and some argue against it saying that will only encourage more attempts of border crossing. Advocates of the legalization of illegal immigrants cite the importance of the undocumented immigrants to our economy. They further argue that illegal immigrants just want a better life, a better future for their children. All of us can not fault these reasoning because we can relate to these hopes and dreams. Personally, I believe in giving people a chance, but I believe in them doing it the right way. However good the reason for people coming across the border is, we can not let one fact escape, they are breaking the law. There really is no justification for breaking the law and we can not pick and chose which law we are to reinforce, ignore, or bend it to our liking. Once we become lackadaisical in our attitude towards these laws then we in a sense are saying we do not have to follow it if we do not like it. There are many rules and regulations we have to abide by living in America. While we may not like or agree with it, as responsible citizens we need to uphold it. As an immigrant myself, I am compassionate and sympathetic towards those who risk their lives to come to the United States, but I have to concede that they need to do it the legal way. This in fact will be more beneficial to them in the long run as I hope you will see in the following story.
Throughout my teaching career, I have met some remarkable students. These kids I will never forget because they have made a great impression on me not just because they excel in academics, but because they are great human beings. I met such a student while teaching in Killeen, Texas. It was 2002 and it was the year I decided to teach summer school. I had eighteen juniors and seniors in my English IV class. They were all from the different high schools and some of them were there because they either wanted to get ahead or they needed to pass the class to graduate. The remarkable student was one of those who failed the class during the regular year and had to pass it in the summer . This student was an illegal immigrant and I discover this because of a writing assignment I had them do. They had to write an autobiography about their lives focusing on one event that dramatically changed their lives for the better or worse. I will just call this student Mary to protect her privacy. In her paper, Mary describe how her father had left her, her mom, little sister, and brother to cross over to the United States illegally. Their plan was for the father to cross over so he can make enough money to hire a coyote to bring Mary and the rest of the family over. A year past and no word from the father. Fearing the worst, Mary’s older brother crossed over with other people. He was successful and fortunate enough to find a job working under the table with a construction company who paid him cash. Eventually he saved enough money and hire a coyote to bring Mary, her mom and sister across. It is fortunate that they did not wait for their father to go back for them because years later they discover he was very much alive but had started his life over in Houston.After I read the essay, I asked Mary if the story was true because they were supposed to write about something that actually happened to them. At first, she tried to deny it because she was petrified that I would turn her in to immigration. Once I reassured her that she everything was going to be all right, she told me how frustrating and horrible it was to live in fear everyday. Even the simple act of driving down the street is nerve wrecking because she is afraid that she will make a mistake and get pull over by a cop. She talked about how she wanted to go to college, but unable to do so because she is not legal and can not register for college because she doe not have a social security number. I remember her words well, ” I get so mad because a lot of my friends who are U.S. citizens don’t even want to go to college after graduation, but I who desperately want to, can’t!” Instead, she will continue working as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant until she can figure out what she wants to do. At one point she even contemplated about getting married to an American soldier thinking that will automatically make her a U.S. citizen. I explained to her that is a misconception and that she will not become a citizen because she had married one.
When I had Mary in my class I did not realize that in 2001, a bill was passed to provide an in state tuition for illegal immigrants. However, even with that knowledge it still would have been difficult for Mary, because she would not have been eligible to apply for financial aid because she is undocumented. That would mean, she would have to pay out of pocket to go to college. Also, Mary’s fear of deportation crippled her desire to further her educational goals.
Mary, like many illegal immigrants are here because they want a better life, but sometimes end up becoming more disheartened or frustrated because their illegal status prevents them from achieving those goals. I am sympathetic towards her plight, but can not ignore the fact that if she had come to the United States legally, she would not have to constantly live in fear of getting caught or frustrated with not being able to go to college.
Illegal immigration is a complex issue and we must look at it from different points of view in order to understand it and try to fix it. The Devil’s Highway, a book about illegal immigration gives that comprehensive look because it gives the point of view of the illegals, coyote, border patrol, and immigration.
Links to information for further consideration:http://www.ncsl.org/programs/educ/undocimmigrant.htm