Immigration reform is a political football. Unfortunately, it has become one of those things that you don’t talk about in polite company. And while I don’t claim to know enough to know how to fix the massive influx of people coming to our country illegally, I do know that we need a pathway to legal residence and citizenship for the students in our ministries who were brought here by their parents.
I think when you get personally involved with students in this situation it becomes less an issue of politics and more an issue of justice. They are stuck. This stuckness kind of defines them and becomes the biggest obstacle they face.
Here’s the story of one student, highly successful academically but otherwise stuck:
No one actually prefers to risk their life crossing the border, leaving behind memories and childhoods, leaving behind their mothers and fathers and leaving behind their children. No one comes to this country because they want to be exploited, and treated less than human. No one migrates to this country and wants to identify as “illegal”. Their decision is not done out of thin air, there have been structures and policies that have pushed many to migrate (NAFTA, Bracero Program, Imperialism, privatization). My parents migrated to the United States because they wanted a better life for their children.
My mom worked in factories, and my dad worked as a cook. They paid taxes (still do), hired lawyers, paid fines, got robbed by lawyers. But most of all, they lost many nights of tucking me to bed, many nights of reading me books, and combing my hair and seeing me walk for the first time. They sacrificed those nights for a better future for me. They are not illegals, they are my parents. They are strong courageous and admirable.
I remember the time I was reunited with my parents; I was about 5 years old. I arrived in Harlem. They pushed me to be the best I can be; making sure education was a priority, motivating me to always be honor roll. And that is what I did, I excelled in school. I hoped time would soften the difference between others and me. I always knew that I was undocumented, but I trusted there was a fair system that would fix that up. My dad promised me my status would soon change, lawyers promised him that too. But no results. I knew my undocumented status put me on a different path than those friends I hung out with. There would be no Cornell University, no going away, no trips abroad, no teaching, no career, no fraternities, and no peaceful nights that did not consist of thinking of “deportation” or “illegal”.
If Sonia were a graduating senior from your high school ministry, what advice would you give her?
Do you agree or disagree that the Dream Act is more a justice issue than an immigration reform issue?