Initial Thoughts on Immigration

Thus far in our unit on immigration, I have come to a new understanding regarding the difficulties facing young immigrants, often students as well. In watching the documentary, “I Learn America,” I was amazed by the ability of certain student-immigrants, often lacking a background in English language, to remain positive and work and strive for their diploma, GED, college admission, etc. One student in particular started school with no motivation, making to effort to adhere to his teachers wishes or do any work at all. His English not very developed, and he was done running, trying to learn a new language, assimilate into a new culture. However, with the continued care and gentle pressure given to him by faculty eventually motivated him to read a story (in English) at a school event. Eventually, later in the year, when his family moved two hours away from his school, he even made the four hour round trip each day just to get to school and back. In seeing the journey of these students, I also came to a new realization on how important it is for them to have passionate mentors looking out for them. One female student, who was destined for an arranged marriage, and a life of wifehood, instead graduated and went on to a two-year college, all thanks to the support she received from an English teacher.  Even though this new plan went against the original wishes, her father understood the incredible opportunity she was presented with, and continued to support her. However, it is often difficult for immigrants, especially children, to determine to what extent they can assimilate into a new culture before betraying their heritage, or going against their families’ wishes. The student was ready to give in, and accept the future she was handed, until she was provided the motivation to seek a better life by this teacher. This leads me to believe that it is absolutely necessary for schools with high immigrant populations to be led by teachers and role models who are eager to help students new to America reach their goals. The sad truth of the matter, however, is that it often tends to be public schools in poor districts that have the highest percent of immigrant students, yet not the funds nor the means to help these students succeed. In order for foreign students to have an opportunity for a better life and education in America, I believe that our nation needs to focus more on immigration schools such as the one documented in “I Learn America.”

I have also been able to learn more about the state of immigration in the United States post-election. What is most obvious to me, and is confirmed for me in the article, “The Truth About Mexican-Americans,” is the stereotyping and generalization of the Mexican-American population in this past election, and how this rhetoric played to the fears of the American people, and thus helped achieve victory for the president-elect, Donald Trump. Trump left nothing up to question very early on in his campaign, as he stated, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Trump’s claims, while incredibly prejudiced, boosted him in the polls. The article recalls how Trump expanded this argument in his immigration plan, “Immigration Reform that Will Make America Great Again,” in which he claimed that the Mexican government was taking advantage of the United States. Trump continued to lead the polls, thus forcing his competitors, such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, to change their entire beliefs on immigration in order to continue to remain competitive in the race. Trump understood that it would be easy to make Americans fear that they were becoming marginalized in their own country. Thus, he made every effort to focus his stance on immigration around this fear, and it ultimately paid off.  

In the documentary, students saw great benefits when supported and motivated by other individuals. In the article, however, the paranoia and fear surrounding new immigrants is revealed. While one high school is a small scale, it can set an example for how we as a country can better support new immigrants.