Know the real stories of immigrants in America
Recent immigration events have me heartbroken and in disbelief, yet others are celebrating recent immigration changes.
I fear that folks who support these positions are disconnected from the immigrant community by geography or misinformation. I hope that folks who think that family separation, making asylum cases more difficult to pursue, and indefinite detention of families are positive decisions are just too removed from the daily realities of immigrants to truly understand.
I hope that sharing my experiences with immigrants will change their minds.
I work with immigrant students learning English. My students embody American values like hard work, supporting family and community, and freedom. On many Fridays, you will see my students working up to the last second of the last period of the day. Sometimes I have to shoo them out the door! They are embodying respect for education. Even so, when one student was approved for a Green Card, he had to drop out of school because his brother with special needs needed to pay a lawyer for an immigration case. That student embodies family values and sacrifice.
It is normal for new Green Card holders to work from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., sleep 2.5 to 4 hours, and go to high school from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. My students embody extreme work hard. My students are volunteers in a club that picks up garbage in neighborhoods, and another immigrant club raised money to feed the homeless this year.
They support their new community.
Still, their lives have not been easy-not in Central America nor in the United States. Most of my students come to the United States as asylum seekers. Gang violence (which the United States exported) and domestic violence are traumatic and truly life threatening in Central America. No one leaves in the dead of night to avoid the tears in their mother’s eyes, or travels through the desert where many others have died, or risks being raped unless they desperately need to leave.
And no, they don’t come to steal American benefits. Despite going through these experiences, it is difficult to find mental health care that doesn’t hinge on billable hours from Medicare (which they are in ineligible for), so my students are less likely to receive services.
Despite not being able to legally work while undergoing immigration cases, my students don’t qualify for food stamps. Despite being poor and young, pro bono lawyers are difficult to find for my students, so my high school students often have debt that is tens of thousands of dollars.
And, if they are lucky to save some money, my students are much more likely to lose it through robbery since my students are more likely to be victims of crime than actual criminals.
The human spirit is amazing though. My students are hopeful about the opportunities here. They want to cooperate, support, respect, live, and be free. They don’t want to exclude, hate, or limit.
I just wish all Americans were ready to embody all of America’s promise too-from President Trump’s administration to the everyday American.
I hope folks can see the human side of this issue after reading this. If so, please share this with someone who may be surprised by these stories as well.
This is a moral issue; it is not just about politics. And if you were already a supporter of immigrants and recent events have lit a new fire, please donate to state organizations like Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio Su Casa, HOLA Ohio, and urban public schools.
Local institutions need support too.
Teacher in Cincinnati
Warren High School graduate
Born and raised in Little Hocking