Monday, April 27, 2009
This article tells the story of a family from Ecuador who uprooted their lives to move to the United States. As educated professionals in Ecuador, they gave up a comfortable life and rewarding jobs to live in a cramped apartment and work grueling jobs that are labor intensive. Despite the hardships, this family did it all to provide their daughter with a better education. As the mother notes, “My hopes are dead. Right now we’re just focused on the education of the children and their future. Let them reach their goals and have their dreams.”
Unfortunately, it is not that easy. This family represents nearly three quarters of 2.3 million undocumented families that have one child who is a United States citizen. Like this family, 400,000 of these “mixed-status families” have children that are both citizens and non-citizens. While the younger son lacks ambition, he is a US citizen and therefore can obtain a job in the country and has access to finical aid and scholarships to finance a college education. On the other hand, the daughter was one of the 65,000 young people that graduate from American high schools each year without immigration papers. Despite her stellar grades and obvious potential, her only options were the public universities in her state. Without a social security number, she was unable to obtain the kind of job her credentials merited after graduation. She now works as a bookkeeper, in a job that she is over-qualified for and underpaid.
Is it fair to these children that are brought to the United States by their parents to be so limited in their potential? This daughter had no say in coming to this country. Because of where she was born, she can continue to excel at school and work hard but she is extremely limited in where that work can take her. Since her brother was born here, he does not have this concerns and the sky is his limit. The New York State Youth Leadership Council is pushing Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would grant legal status to high school graduates who were brought to the United States by their parents before they were 15 years old and attend college for 2 years or serve in the military. Along with providing an incentive to work hard in school, it creates an essential opportunity. It is unfair to limit the potential of children of illegal immigrants who were given no choice in their situation and this act serves to create an equal playing field for these children in "mixed status families."