Juan Doeminguez is a bright, enterprising college student—with a dream. He wants to be a physician, and to work in immigrant communities where his fluency in both English and Spanish will be deeply valued. He is performing well in his studies, even in Organic Chemistry, the back-breaking course that has waylaid the ambitions of many other pre-meds over the years. He will be receiving his Bachelor’s Degree with honors in a couple of years, and should be an excellent candidate for acceptance into medical school.
But, through no fault of his own, for Juan, that door is closed. Juan has the intelligence, dedication, skills, commitment, and caring needed. What he doesn’t have is a green card.
Juan’s parents brought him over the border to the US when he was an infant. He has grown up in Southern California and knows no other home. His younger siblings have all been born in the States and are therefore American citizens. But Juan, the oldest of the children, is in limbo. Like his parents, he is “undocumented”, and barred from any profession that requires a license or certification.
Immigration reform is a delicate issue. Fears that jobs and resources in the US will be overwhelmed by a wave of immigrants if the border controls are abolished have led to advocacy for strict immigration controls. This perspective can be compared to the lifeboat analogy, i.e. if too many people climb aboard, the lifeboat will sink and all will perish.
But a closer look at the story of immigration belies this simple analogy. There are many factors that have contributed and are contributing to the “illegal” immigration that has changed the demographics of this country over the past thirty years. Among them are:
--Massive population increases in many countries from which immigrants emigrate, coupled with poor economic conditions and a lack of opportunities for work or even sustenance.
--Active or passive encouragement from these countries for their populations to emigrate for social and economic reasons.
--US business and corporate interests that welcome a large supply of labor at minimum wage (or below minimum wage) to drive down costs, wages, and undermine unionization efforts.
--Globalist manipulations that encourage the porousness of borders to benefit currency manipulations and to promote the transition to an economic union among discrete countries.
Despite the economic pressures that drive individuals and families to cross the oceans or borders into the US without authorization, one can argue that, for each person, this action is an individual choice. In other words, if the law limits access to the United States and its “fruits”, one can choose either not to come to the US, or to come “illegally” and live with the consequences of that choice such as working in the low-wage “underground economy”. Harsh, but for those partisans who are among the “letter of the law” advocates or the frightened in the “lifeboats”, a position that can be aligned with their consciences.
Unfortunately, this position does not address an entire group of people for whom immigration was NOT a choice. The children of undocumented immigrants who were carried into the US without their knowledge or will. These children grow up alongside US citizens, go to school with documented classmates, and share in the cultural environment to which they have been brought. Home, for these children, is America. Some cannot even speak the language of their native country. They are, in their minds, and their hearts, Americans. Like Juan.
This dilemma has led to some legislative solutions. For example, AB 540, the California Dream Act, provides opportunities for undocumented immigrant students who have attended a California high school for 3 years or more to apply for financial aid and attend college at in-state tuition rates. Yet, the state’s immigrant Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, vetoed the bill twice, and the bill is now being challenged in court by the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Even this small step to address the challenges faced by these teens and young adults who are eager to contribute as active members of the society in which they were raised may be denied after the court review is completed. And, this step still would not allow students like Juan to become doctors, nurses, pharmacists, or other much needed licensed health professionals.
Is the lifeboat really the analogy that motivates these restrictions? Or is it the desire of the lawyered elite to limit access to the palace of success and keep a ready underclass to staff its labor force or military ranks? (Undocumented individuals who join the military can become eligible for a green card and eventual citizenship, especially posthumously.) For many of these young people, their parents risked their lives to come to the US. Now, they may have to risk their lives to become citizens.
There are many Juans waiting, eager to serve their country, the United States, in ways that would benefit humanity. And we need them. It is time to give them a chance. Did we not, after all, invite them?
Give me your tired, your poor…
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: