Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 19 2012

Immigration Story

This weekend, I took a student’s mother to her lawyer. She doesn’t have a license to drive herself there and can’t speak English well enough to communicate confidently on serious matters. This visit was serious because she isn’t here legally, and needed to see someone about a small violation that may or may not lead to immigration issues. (No pressure on my translation abilities….)


I know immigration is a deeply complicated issue. I know that there are valid aspects to all the arguments. I also know that everyone here illegally has a personal story of why they should stay here, and so obviously policy decisions can’t be made on individual anecdotes. But I’m not interested in making a logical immigration argument here, and I’m not trying to extrapolate this out to anything else. I just want to tell you how sad this one situation makes me.


This mom is the best. She is sweet and caring and smart and tirelessly helpful. She has raised three of the most exemplary kids, all of whom excel at school while being popular for their kindness. Mom has taught them to be grade-level literate in Spanish and speak with excellent grammar while the schools taught them the same things in English. Mom, Dad, and all kids go everywhere together, and whenever they look at one another you can see the love in their eyes. Since Mom can’t work, she volunteers her time in the community. And if I didn’t adore the family enough already, they also write me cards on every holiday, invite me to their home for meals, and are effusively kind whenever they see me.


I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m trying very hard not to. This really is the family that all the teachers talk about with intense affection and a little bit of awe. How are you allowed to be so wonderful, all the time?


But now she has to go to lawyers and discuss her options. Maybe nothing will happen to this woman, or maybe she’ll get thrown in jail and deported. She tells me stories about the murders and kidnappings of innocent family members in her hometown, and it’s clear why she’s so terrified to go home. Then we talk about the conditions of schools there, and of opportunities for her kids, and of jobs for her family, and the sadness gets heavier and heavier and heavier. And then I hear about all the things she’s done and sacrificed to have her family together here, and you know things must be really bad at home if this was the option she chose. Deportation is a living nightmare for this woman.


If things don’t go well, I have this image of myself throwing a tantrum on the courtroom floor, holding on to the judge’s ankles and yelling. You cannot, cannot, cannot take these people away.


Would that work?

One Response

  1. Lucas

    Only 400 years ago, the land was the home of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Ute, Apache, Comanche, and others. The Spanish came, claimed it for King Philip, and named it for the way the red clay had colored the earth and the waters there. Then the French came, claimed it for King Louis, and called it a part of Louisiana. Then the Americans came and claimed it for themselves. They bought Louisiana from Napoleon, conquered Mexico from the Platte River to the Pacific Ocean to ‘the Halls of Montezuma,’ and settled the land they coveted. She has at least as much of a right to come and live in Colorado as any of us. And yet I doubt that would turn out to be any more persuasive to a judge than a teary-eyed, ankle-grabbing tantrum.

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