Immigration law reform has been a contentious issue that has been pushed aside for years; however, this year President Obama has made it a goal to give immigration the attention it needs and to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
President Obama has explained the need to create a system that gives illegal immigrants a pathway to earned citizenship while, at the same time, enforcing our current laws and strengthening our border security.
The issue of immigration may seem distant for Carmel High students, with a 75 percent white population, but the decisions in Washington have a real impact here at CHS.
Brenda Buran, who has been teaching English Language Development for 12 years, knows firsthand how immigration policy affects her students. Many of them have family who are illegal immigrants, and some are illegal immigrants themselves.
“I’ve had students wonder why they should bother staying on the A-G track, why put in the effort to qualify to go [to college] if they wouldn’t qualify for financial aid,” Buran explains.
This type of situation is not uncommon with undocumented students because they do not have Social Security numbers to qualify for need based aid.
“There’s no way of getting out of paying into the system, but [illegal immigrants] don’t get the benefits, and that’s deeply unfair,” Buran remarks. “I think anybody who thinks that is a burden on society is kidding themselves.”
Obama has taken notice of this and proposed a tough but fair path to citizenship for illegal immigrants so they and their children can enjoy the benefits that were previously denied to them. The plan features paying of taxes and fines, submitting to background checks, learning English and waiting until legal immigration backlog is cleared before getting in line to get their shot at the American dream.
There are approximately 26,000 undocumented youth in California, including at least five Carmel High students who have anonymously acknowledged their undocumented status.
One undocumented CHS sophomore expresses support for President Obama’s plan for immigration reform. Having arrived from Mexico at three years old, the sophomore has essentially grown up in America. This situation has inevitably had an impact on this sophomore’s life.
“My parents don’t have a license so they can’t drive anywhere, and they get freaked out when they see the police,” the sophomore remarks.
While there are challenges, having spent the majority of their lives in America makes the cultural transition easier for such students.
One CHS junior has had a vastly different experience, though, emigrating here from central Mexico just six years ago.
“It’s a huge transition from being in your native country and moving to some other different place,” this junior explains. “You don’t have freedom at all, which can really limit the things you want to do, and although you pretty much live in fear, you try to hope for the best.”
While these two students have different stories, they—along with thousands of other child immigrants—have had their lives impacted by the actions taken by lawmakers. This issue has been a focus of the Obama administration with the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act which, had it passed, would have opened a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants pursuing college education.
One of the main aspects of the proposed immigration reform is an easier path to a green card, and eventually citizenship, for immigrants brought as children and pursuing college or military careers. For the several youth immigrants at CHS, this is a golden opportunity.
“If it all passed, I would like to go straight to college after graduating and get a career,” the junior says. “I really want to just be able to become a citizen and do things right.”
The majority of immigrants, though, come here to work hard for a better life. They become productive members of society and raise children who may not be illegal themselves, but are still closely tied to the issue of immigration. For one CHS senior, it means spending time to fill out paperwork and give her social security number so her aunt can get a job in this country and support her family.
At this point, the future of immigration reform remains unclear. For the time being, Americans—undocumented and legal citizens alike—will have to wait for change to happen.