This article is dedicated to all Mexican and Central American young people who came to this country illegally, albeit without knowledge of their condition, and attended the American school system. They became Americans in spirit if not on paper; I met a few in my high school over the 11 years I have been teaching and so far, all have shown a strong desire to excel and become officially American citizens. Like me, they spent their first years in a different country, spoke a different language, and observed different ceremonies to honor their heritage. But today, they speak English better than their native tongue, mostly Spanish, and know more about this country’s history than many of their classmates. The fact that the school districts have, for the most part, refrained from demanding immigration status when registering them the first year is a testimony that educators are not politicians, luckily. The teachers see some kids who want to learn and that’s all that matters.
A Run to Safety and Opportunity
While I don’t approve of illegal immigration, i.e. violating the law, I fully understand the two main reasons why Mexicans and others cross the border without proper documents. One is of course the fear evoked by drug cartels and their pitched battles in the middle of many cities; the lack of security is compounded by a totally inefficient local police force which often is in the pay of drug barons. Number two is the lack of opportunities to make a decent salary, a situation caused by corrupt government officials who turn a blind eye and a willing purse toward union bosses; these so-called labor leaders, who entertain a symbiotic relationship with the authorities, have absolutely no interest in the workers’ welfare. Their opulent mansions are a clear testimonial of their fiefdoms, in which they reign for decades as feudal lords. Move aside Jimmy Hoffa! Labor tribunals, on the other hand, work mainly for the benefit of union leaders, failing in their duty to bring justice to abused workers. No wonder the United States looks like a paradise to these suffering masses.
Great Public Relations
There is another angle to the undocumented kids who sit in our classrooms: They will eventually serve as ambassadors of goodwill for the United States. Many will return to their country of origin and tell their compatriots of the great opportunities and of the freedoms available on this side of the border. It would take a very disturbed individual indeed to attack the country that fed him or her for 10 years or more. A simple comparison between Guatemala’s living conditions and our own American values suffices to convince any intelligent human being that moving here is the key to success. Something similar, by the way, is happening to the Russian middle and high classes. They are escaping the quasi police state that Putin has created. Many are moving to the U.S. as soon as they get their visas and thus contribute to the vast cultural diversity this country has to offer.
Refusing to allow these sometimes brilliant undocumented students to remain is an enormous waste of talent and effort. We could easily take advantage of their motivation by asking them to join our Armed Forces or perform a year of community service. We have millions of disadvantaged kids in urban slums who only need a slight academic push to escape their social plight. Let the high school graduates from other countries help in this endeavour. Their social contribution would be a marvelous test and repayment for their U.S. education. If they refuse, then send them back whence they came from. With those who agree, we gain a whole generation of enthusiastic new Americans who will enrich our society and strengthen our military.