I teach English as a Second Language and English Literature. I didn’t start teaching because I felt strongly about immigration, but I feel strongly now. I have watched intelligent, motivated young men and women struggle with issues of citizenship and education, and they haven’t deserved those struggles. One student won a scholarship to a prestigious summer program in Washington, DC, but couldn’t attend because he didn’t have documentation for a plane ticket. Another student is terrified of being deported before he can get his high school diploma. Another can’t attend the college of his choice, because government loans require documentation. He is one of the lucky ones, because he has the determination to do the research required to find a college that will accept him.
I have met students whose parents were doctors and educators in their country of origin, but who are barely scraping by here because they can’t find employment in their field. Most of my undocumented students have lost friends or family members to deportation; all live under the threat of being separated from their families. Most of my students have been in the United States for years, frequently for most of their lives. Yet despite having been brought to this country (in part) for the educational opportunities we can provide, these students are often faced with a future of skirting the edges, taking lower paying, fringe jobs rather than pursuing the high paying careers their efforts deserve.
Some people say that undocumented immigrants don’t feel loyalty toward the United States. That is true for some of the workers I have met who want nothing more than to be a seasonal worker and return home each summer or winter, after the season ends.
For my students, this is not true at all. If you ask them, their loyalties are not torn: they are proud of their heritage, but identify and feel loyalty towards the United States. The immigration mess angers me. Both on the behalf of my students, and on behalf of my country: every opportunity lost by my students is an opportunity lost by my country for a smart, dedicated doctor, or researcher, or pilot, or business owner, or bus driver. We are depriving America of the intelligence, motivation, and, above all, creativity that our newest immigrants could bring to the table.