Saturday, January 2, 2010

Are We Amercians?

We ARE Americans is a must-read for anyone who wants to be more fully informed about those individuals who come across the southern border to the United States from Mexico to live among us in order to better themselves. This book will flesh out some of the human drama involved in such lives. Many children have grown up here in our school systems only to find themselves stuck in inexpressible ways from advancing and contributing further to our society. Any person with a conscience and any degree of compassion ought to know the stories.

I personally conceptualized and started writing a story about a fourteen-year-old boy who had been born a few hundred yards on the Mexican side of the US-Mexican border as his parents escaped the hellhole they had lived in by crossing the border into the United States. In my mind, I imagined that his parents' families --- essentially his grandparents --- had been mixed up in the lower echelon of the drug cartels in Mexico. What I wanted to convey was that the family wanted to escape from the dire circumstances of their lives in Mexico.

Therefore, I decided to read We ARE Americans, Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream by William Perez.

Perez interviewed twenty undocumented students who live in the United States and have done so for a good chunk of their lives. Almost all of them are still undocumented aliens living in the United States without legal justification for being here under US law. Twenty is such a small sampling of the 2.4 million children and young adults under the age of twenty-four who the forward indicates now live in the United States undocumented.

Four of the kids interviewed were still in high school. For example, Penelope, who was on the cusp of graduating from high school with an excellent academic record and had participated in numerous extracurricular activities, fears that she won't be able to afford college and go to the university. She came to the United States when she was nine years old. She was raised by her mother after her parents separated. Jeronimo was born in Mexico but came to the United States when he was a year old, and essentially living all of his life in the United States.

Four more of the kids were in community college --- mostly because they couldn't afford to be at the university. Eight of the kids were at the university. For example, Eduardo said he was restricted in joining clubs, participating in school events, taking on leadership roles at the university because of his status. He considers himself a typical American boy, who grew up with brothers and sisters --- three brothers and one sister --- in a regular family. Well... maybe not so regular. He grew up in a two-bedroom house with his mother, father, his three brothers, and his sister sharing the small space. The family relied heavily upon him because he was the oldest of the kids.

Four of the interviewees were actually college graduates. Julia was in graduate school working to get her PhD in engineering. She came to the United States from a poor neighborhood in Mexico when she was thirteen years old. She had attended some school in Mexico, but it was in a poor school without the educational resources of the schools in the United States. It was a dangerous place for her to live. Nonetheless, both in Mexico and in the United States, she distinguished herself as a student.

The stories are informative and compelling. These are the stories of twenty highly motivated and hard-working students. There are others, many others, I assume, here in the United States without documentation who do not process the motivation or inherent ability of these twenty hard-working and motivated kids. I doubt that their plights are any less compelling than are the ones told in the book, other than the fact that they are perhaps lacking in inherent ability and perhaps, therefore, the drive to succeed in school.

Not only does the book contain the heartrending stories of these kids, but it also contains important facts about the composition and, to some extent, the comportment of those individuals who are here without proper documentation.

Every American is affected one way or another by those who want to pursue and to live the great American dream, but who cross our borders without documentation or come here legally but then lose their legal status but don't leave. Whenever anybody makes a judgment relative to this issue, they should be fully informed. These are people.

This book, in my opinion, presents a convincing case for why we need to get a better handle on immigration and in making reformations so that these youngsters, who have lived much of their lives in the United States school system, can be fully assimilated into our society as citizens.

The question is, are we Americans? Those of us with citizenship --- will we step up to the plate and support those so deserving of our consideration? I hope so.

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