I met one of my best friends two years ago on the first day of AP Calculus. When I sat down next to him in the front row he joked, “Hey, my name is Gabe**. I’m not being obtuse, but you’re acute girl.” I asked him how long he had been waiting to use that one, laughed, and then called him a dork. We have been friends ever since. At age seventeen, he has a job, a place on the high school newspaper staff, and an abundance of friends. He maintains a respectable GPA, speaks perfect English, doesn’t break the law (he won’t even j-walk with me), and some weekends he volunteers with me for the American Cancer Society. This past year Gabe told me that he is here illegally. He moved from Mexico to the United States when he was only seven years old, and of course, it was not his choice. He is American in every way I can think of and yet he constantly faces the threat of deportation to a country that is no longer his home. As Gabe finishes out his senior year in high school and considers college options, the burden of the title “illegal immigrant” weighs on him more heavily than ever.
In this year President Barack Obama issued an executive order, the Dream Act, which puts policy in place allowing young illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship, granted they meet certain requirements. According to the policy, immigrants who moved here before the age of sixteen, have no criminal history, show effort in school, and meet a few other specific requirements will be granted a two year deferral from deportation. Following the announcement, many legislators at the state and national level expressed strong opposition, criticizing it as an act of amnesty that threatens congressional authority. They point to upward trends in immigration, fret over unemployment rates, and offer figures related to public spending on health care, education, and social services.
Somewhere in the battle over public resources and immigration policy, it seems children have turned into statistics. It is easy to forget that the kids this act aims to protect are not nameless leeches who exist solely to drain American resources, and to overlook that they attended American elementary schools where they learned how to read and write, said the Pledge of Allegiance every day, and maybe played on the soccer team or ran track. Perhaps they forget that a ten year old or a twelve year old cannot understand what it means to move to a country illegally, or that having to leave their home and try to figure out who they are in a new place is tough enough without laws that make it even tougher.
My friend Gabe has a little sister, Veronica**, who recently started 6th grade. During the next few years of her life, she’ll make critical choices about the kind of student she wants to be, what type of people she wants to spend time with, and in what ways to contribute to society. Veronica is also beginning to understand what it means to be “illegal” in the government’s eyes, and to catch glimpses of the struggles she is sure to face no matter how hard she works to be a productive part of the society she was brought into. For her, the light at the end of the tunnel—the promise of a successful future and stable lifestyle–is dimmed by these impending struggles. Instead of realizing her full potential, it very possible that without realistic motivation she might choose not to continue her education, never realize her full potential, and become the kind of drain on society that legislators fear.
President Obama’s proposal is not aimed at protecting criminals or squandering resources. It is about granting freedoms to talented youth who are in a difficult situation that they didn’t create, and about preserving the idea that in America, if you play by the rules and work hard, you can succeed. No seventeen year old who has worked as hard as Gabe should face the challenges he faces. He is more than a statistic, and I promise that the government faces bigger threats than this boy who I became friends with in AP Calculus two years ago.
65,000 young people are in a similar situation. 65,000 people like Gabe and Veronica, who seem no less American than their classmates and friends, and are certainly no less deserving. If the weight that the title of “illegal immigrant” carries is lifted off their shoulders, these young people can continue to work hard to be a positive part of American society, and the government can focus on more pressing threats.
**Real names omitted
(race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability,
(race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability,.
After completing this course, students should be able to interact appropriately and communicate effectively, using respectful language based on knowledge of diverse populations make connections and analyze problems related to current events using knowledge of the historical context of diversity issues For this assignment, you will select a person that is different than you in at least one of the diversity areas we study in this class (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.). You will meet with this person on at least two (2) different occasions for at least one (1) hour each time. It is preferred that these meetings are face to face. If that is not possible, please discuss options with the instructor. With the selected individual, discuss significant differences and similarities between the two of you, paying attention to everyday life experiences as well as major life experiences. The objectives of this report are to: (1) View the world through the lens of someone significantly different than you; (2) Appreciate the similarities that exist between humans even in the face of significant differences. Content of Report For this written assignment, you will need to address the following: Whom did you interview and why? In what major way(s) is this individual different than you (age, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.)? What significant differences did you discover in everyday life experiences? What significant differences did you discover in major life experiences? What was the most unexpected information you learned from this activity? How comfortable were you in talking with this individual? What were the similarities you discovered? What was the most surprising similarity you discovered? Describe how this activity contributed to your diversity awareness. Format of the Report
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