I wish I was better at retaining facts.
I wish I was better at entering into those complex conversations where I could defend my point of view, factually, until the death.
But I can’t.
I can tell stories.
So, that is what I am going to do.
And it is related to the debate on immigration.
I also know that if you are going to listen to me, you need to know that my voice is credible.
So, here’s a condensed version of my experience in this area.
* I taught ESL at the high school and community college level for years.
* I worked for an agency part-time that helped families relocate to the Bay Area from other countries. I would tutor the children and often the moms in English, as well as help them get acclimated to living in a different culture (grocery stores can be daunting!).
* I lived overseas and taught EFL in the Czech Republic.
* I worked as an executive assistant for a NGO that brought scholars to the U.S. from the two-thirds world to get their masters and doctorate degrees with the sole purpose of returning back to their native countries to teach and raise up leaders.
So, the stories.
First, I want to tell you about Alberto (all names have been changed).
Alberto was one of my high school freshman.
Alberto had recently come to the U.S.
Alberto lived in a home with his entire extended family, which meant he slept in a garage with 12 of his siblings and cousins.
All of the adults in Alberto’s home had two jobs. So, it was up to all the kids to look out for each other and cook the meals, and clean the home.
Alberto fell asleep at his desk almost every day. He ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spicy Fritos chips from my classroom stash every day.
He also has the best sense of humor, the hugest smile, and never once complained about a single thing.
He was never late, he showed up every day, and he was very aware that his success at school was mandatory for his survival and that of his family.
Maiko was a high school sophomore. She and her family had been relocated to the Bay Area from Japan due to her father’s job with a major tech company. I tutored Maiko in English once a week after school.
Maiko wanted to know everything there was to know about American teenage life. She was already fighting with her mom over the type of clothes she wanted to wear, and had surprised her mother with a more updated, American haircut within the first week of her arrival to the States.
Her mother watched me very carefully to ensure that instead, Maiko was learning strictly English grammar and conversation. We did sneak in a couple of current movies with the subtitles on and convinced her mom it was relevant to learning diction and expanding one’s vocabulary.
I remember arriving one day at Maiko’s home to find a huge puddle of water on the kitchen floor with live frogs hopping about.
That was dinner. 🙂
Maiko’s was highly motivated to learn English and to adopt American culture. Her desire was to stay in the U.S. permanently.
Bao and his family arrived to the U.S. from Vietnam under the sponsorship of a distant relative. He never told me exactly why, but it was clear that the family had been forced to flee.
Bao’s family was very poor. Bao often wore the same clothes week after week. And even though in most high school classrooms, this might have been cause for bullying and cruel jokes, in this particular ESL class, there was an unspoken camaraderie among all the students.
Bao also had undiagnosed learning challenges. When one’s native language is not English, it is very difficult to address these learning challenges. So, he and I muddled through it as best we could together.
Bao’s family attended every single school event. All of them.
And every time they had any sort of celebration that included food, I was gifted a portion.
At the end of the year, he and his family were crying and hugging one another, and me, in pure relief and elation that he had made it through his first year of American high school.
I only saw Maria part of the school year. She was never fully present and kept to herself. She was the daughter of migrant workers. And as such, she was often either moving from available crop to crop, or she was needed to help pick the crop and add her income to that of the family’s. She had been all over the state picking the crops we buy in the produce section of our grocery stores.She was 16 and in my freshman high school Academic Reading class.
Manuel was in gang initiation. I watched the change in him throughout the school year. He came in a vibrant kid, and by the end of the year, he was solemn and brooding. Manuel was initiating for a gang in which all the members took a great deal of pride in being recent immigrants from Mexico. They held those ties tightly. As a recent immigrant himself, Manuel was desperate to find a place to fit in and to have some sort of identity outside of “immigrant”.
I could go on and on with more stories.
I think it is vital to put a face to immigration.
I am fully aware these stories will most likely not change anyone’s mind on the issue.
For me, these precious kids are in my heart.
6 thoughts on “It’s Personal.”
Thank you, Carrie.
Carry, Thank you for your voice in this matter. I have to admit this is very difficult for me to sort out. I am conflicted. On an individual basis, I genuinely have compassion and connection with these immigrants. Frankly, I identify with them more than I do with many of my “peers”. On a macroscopic basis; however, I have concerns.
I know that ultimately on a grand scale justice diminishes in the face of lawlessness. When a culture loses the notion of the rule of law, it seems that on balance cases of injustice increase — bad people use the vacuum to wrestle power. And they don’t wield it well. There seems a bit of this going on.
We know that there are at least 1.2 billion people in the world who could benefit by migrating here. Mathematically this simply cannot happen without a total breakdown of what it is that attracts them. There must be some limits (certainly we can take many more). But still there is a limit.
Also, I am concerned that by signalling these immigrants that they will be able to circumvent the law here to their advantage, we have enticed many into a form of human trafficking. I am grateful for the ones who survive and make it. But I am not naive enough to believe that many are not exploited horribly in their attempts. I read of “coyotes” making 50,000 USD in a week. Is it possible that for ten immigrants that “make it” one ends up as a sex slave or dead? I suspect this is not entirely beyond possibility.
As a Christian, I want to do what I can to help. My daughter tutors immigrant children. She loves them. We love them. Let’s be blunt. They broke the law to come. We still love them — and even like them.
But there is something also troubling about this present situation. I am glad I am not in charge. We will pray.
P.S. I posted here, because social media is almost useless for having these kinds of REAL discussions. Too many drive by shootings in the comment sections. 🙂 Blessings to you.
Thanks for your input. And your concerns are certainly valid ones.
Coyotes have been in existence for decades and it is terrifying to think they lay in wait in the shadows to snatch up those trying to cross the borders with the sole purpose of exploiting those individuals. I am grateful for those working at our borders who understand who these individuals are and work diligently to bring them to justice.
In relation to the crossing of our borders being an illegal act. That is one I just can’t agree with. I am a believer that the legality of it is rife with problems mostly on the part of our justice system. I can attest to this personally as it was a very daunting business getting Martin (my husband) his green card and it was EXPENSIVE – and he is fluent in English, so language was not a barrier.
And I could write an entirely separate blog post about the “coyotes” that exist within our legal system who have lied to and stolen from many of my adult students as they navigated the very confusing legal channels to seek green cards and citizenship.
Also, our country is very dependent on our illegal migrant workers to tend to the fields in almost slave-like conditions to bring us affordable produce. No one else wants those jobs. And if they all became legal citizens, well then, the price of our produce would go up because they would be forced to be paid a fair wage and housed in livable conditions. Will we as a nation allow for that? I am all for it, personally. Again, I can attest to this personally as a friend is a former migrant worker and as kids, we often had two girls the ages of my sister and I over for play dates who were the daughters of local migrant workers. The girls often worked alongside their parents.
Regardless of all of that –
we have an exceptionally large group of children that have recently crossed our borders. I cannot even imagine what dire circumstances would have led a mother to allow her child to leave her in such a manner – especially knowing the risks.
That in of itself is alarming to me.
I am not at all stating that there are not many issues that need to be addressed here as matters of security and a desire for our nation to thrive.
I am saying that we are a nation of innovators. We are creative. And our Lady Liberty is a reminder to us all of how our nation was founded – not too far removed from the crisis at our borders. And as such, I believe there are ways in which we can welcome the stranger and embrace these precious children and trust the God of All Nations that there is a way to do so.
My faith compels me to trust that as I embrace these children first and foremost as God has basically commanded me to do, then He can be trusted to lead us as a nation as to how to do that in a way that is not to our detriment.
And I am praying for Mexico. I am praying that we can work hand-in-hand there as well with our neighbors to ensure that mothers are not finding themselves in such dire circumstance that their only hope would be to send their child across the border. Alone.
And Rob – you are missed on Facebook, but grateful for other ways to communicate! 🙂
Carrie, We really NEED some coffee for this one! I’ll buy anytime. 🙂
I’d love that, Rob!
If your work ever consists of a layover in SFO, let us know!
Martin would probably suggest a beer over coffee, however. 🙂
Deal. I like Tea. But for this conversation we will avoid it at all costs!!!!