A Piece of my Mind: A Student Without a Country
My country…I have none. I was born in a country but remember nothing of it. can study its culture scrutinize it like a germ, but in the end would not really feel its true soul, as if I had lived there. I have been here in the United States all my life. I have studied here for 12 years and breathed 18 years’ worth of its air. English is not my second language; it is my only fluent language. Yet, politicians and lawmakers label students like me as “aliens.” The hopes I had of becoming a full-fledged American citizen are slowly dissipating. Last year a federal legislative bill, the American DREAM Act, passed the House of Representatives but failed to win approval in the Senate. This bill would have given undocumented students (and those living in immigration limbo while awaiting naturalization) a safety net if they met certain conditions. These students would have to attend college for at least two years or perform military service and meet certain other conditions. If all the conditions were satisfied, then these students would be eligible for citizenship. Twice the bill has failed and now my days and resolve are waning. My former optimistic and highly-motivated self is slowly going the way of the American DREAM Act, that is, turning into a nightmare. There are many students, like myself, who have not even set foot in the country of one’s birth since infancy. The only place they can call home is here in the “land of the free,” and the so-called land of opportunity. For example, if someone were to ask me for the location of a good restaurant in Glen Cove, I’d quickly reply, “The American Cafe,” or ask me where where the post office is and i’d point you in the right direction. However, in my birth country, Chile, if someone were to ask me where the bathroom in my parents’ old house was located, I would have to open every door, search every corner of the house before answering. My point is that some people know of no other country than the one they are currently living in. These individuals have been brought here out of desperation, into a land with supposedly more freedom. Most Americans believe that freedom is the most important aspect of this nation, but they nevertheless want to take it away from many deserving students. These students are individuals who want nothing more than to be exemplary American citizens. Their dreams are worth nurturing. They should not be treated like pests that need to be removed or exterminated.
If there’s one thing that kills ambition more than anything else and eats away at our insides, it is rejection. Rejection from scholarships, student loans, a job behind some counter and most of all the dream that society alluded to when we were in grade school. I can’t put my hand on it and words can’t capture it. This sensation is odd. it feels like being caged in. After a while, only anger beings to pile up. Sadness and depression no longer set in. instead, there is confusion and anger towards the injustice being waged against people like me…immigrants. The only difference is that they had the good fortune of having entered the United States in better times. They were able to prosper and gain economic stability. My father, mother, uncles and aunts all work back-breaking jobs to sustain. What keeps them working so hard is beyond me. How does someone remain happy after all the years of hard labor, mistreatment and knowing you left a whole family behind in a distant country? i guess it all has to do with hope. The hope that their children will succeed where they themselves have not. The hope that one day they can look back on their lives and not regret a single thing. Most immigrant parents want their children to become lawyers or big shot businessmen or businesswomen. Those career for people like me are just as difficult to reach as someone who is trying to become a filmmaker, a career I am reaching for and will somehow grasp.
A website, www.nysylc.org, has tons of blog type entries of individuals helping undocumented students and undocumented students sharing their stories, frustrations and words of encouragement. One anonymous blogger speaks about being salutatorian in his class of 2010 in Florida. He says he is “stuck at home, not attending college or working” making him go “crazy.” I point out this specific blog entitled “I graduated salutatorian but….” and the website because it speaks about guidance counselors and their lack of knowledge necessary to help students in these situations. This site is helpful for those who have no clue what to do or where to go for help. I was told of a story where a student attempted to commit suicide after being accepted to a topnotch college and not being able to afford it because he lacked the legal papers necessary to qualify for funding. It’s stories like these that scare me. Most people in school, in this very school, take education for granted while people like this are willing to die for it. I have no idea how I haven’t gone insane knowing that the pressure to succeed is upon me while the roadblocks to success are very difficult to overcome. These difficulties make me furious. I guess it’s the writing, the ability I have to express many of my frustrations that help me cope but, it will never solve my problems.
We need to change things in this still young, developing nation. What about those words at the base of the Statue of Liberty “Give me your tired, your poor, your humble masses yearning to be free..I lift my lamp besides…” Are these words no longer applicable; are they meaningless? I end this note with respect towards a great man who we must never forget…”One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” Thank you Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., you still give me comfort and a shred of hope.