Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Immigrant Stories

This past Saturday I was reading in the Chicago Sun-Times about a young man who is facing deportation. Apparently his parents entered the USA illegally when he was 6 years old and he has been here ever since. Now INS wants to deport him when he is a straight A student at UIC.

The sad thing about many illegal immigrants is that they are working their butts off trying to achieve the American dream. They often work for sub-standard wages, without any benefits, and constantly in fear that they will be discovered. Yet they are working, not milking the system, as a great many anti-immigrant activists would have you believe. They just want a better life than they had wherever they came from. They want a better life for their children.

If their children are born in the U.S. those children are automatically U.S. citizens. If they are born in another country, they are illegal, as are their parents. In cases such as this one, the young man has been in the U.S. so long he really knows nothing about the place of his birth. In this case that is Mexico. A college student who has lived in Chicago since he was 6 years old naturally comes to feel like Chicago and the USA is home. To send this young man to Mexico would be to exile a legitimate American to a foreign land with a foreign way of life. He has done everything right and by the book. He excels when so many native American students do not. He is an asset to the U.S. So why the hell is he being kicked out?

Where I work at the Outpost in Back of the Yards, there are a great many students whose parents brought them to Chicago illegally. INS has to know this. They are everywhere. The illegals form a shadow economy of low paid workers who keep the city, and other cities as well, chugging along. The children are, well, just children, like any other children. Some struggle in school. Some are motivated and do exceptionally well. I know of at least one such student who managed to make it to graduation as the valedictorian of her class. Scored a 3 on an AP exam. Yet her college hopes were seriously damaged by her illegal status. Being illegal, she could not get the typical loans or grants available to other low income students. She talked of going to Mexico City to a university, but was daunted by the fact that she had lived in Chicago so long that she felt like a foreigner in Mexico. She also talked about just getting a job and maybe going to a City College part-time, a 2 year college.

What appears to be happening, to me, is that the government is looking the other way as long as the parents continue to work for poverty wages and keep American businesses chugging along, but the kids are set adrift. For God's sake, we allow the best and brightest of nations from all over the world to come to the U.S. and attend universities, as long as they have wealthy and powerful parents. Why can we not lift up the best and the brightest from among us when they are living down the street, and deserve a break? Are we such a racist, xenophobic nation that we cannot stand to see a few Latino students prove they are the equal of any native born American, or the rich kids from abroad? It is time we took a long, hard look at our immigration policies. It is time we showed some compassion for those who have not a choice about where they were born or where they moved to, or how they got there.

In other immigration news, Tai Shen, the panda born at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. is also being deported. It seems that Tai Shen's parents, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang were merely loaned to the U.S. with a specific agreement that any offspring of the pair would have to be returned to China. Tai Shen is 2 years old and has never known any other world but the U.S. National Zoo. Doesn't know a word of Mandarin. Speaks fluent bamboo, though. Nevertheless, can this be fair, a child of the Western world being torn from his roots, and sent to live as a stranger in a strange land? Just one more immigration injustice boys and girls. Oh, and I will get to that story I promised, eventually, the one about "Angel tits all around." Just give me the appropriate moment. Meantime, I think I'll look out the window for a while. There's a trifecta of precipitation out there tonight, snow, sleet, and rain all mixed together.

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