It is a sad predicament that these people are in, pretty much unrequited love ?? But these are people who have lived so long in the US and probably know of no other way of life that denying them a chance at a normal life is wrong.
Illegal immigrants’ kids want the ‘American Dream’
PASCKIE PASCUA, Philippine News
08/18/2008 | 12:09 PM
LOS ANGELES — Childish grins intermittently escape from Stephanie Solis’ waif-like face like tiny arrows that cut through the concrete facade of America’s heart. “I don’t feel very Filipino,” she said,” I’m told I am not American, but the only thing that rings true to me is the English language.”
Stephanie arrived in the United States when she was only three years old. At that time, her parents only taught her to speak in English, “as if in preparation for something,” she said.
With a poignant mix of bashful restraint, sharp wit, and nonchalant humor, other “undocumented undergrads” like Stephanie narrated their stories before an entranced Sunday gathering at the Remy’s on Temple Art Gallery in Filipinotown here last Aug 10.
The “book party” aims at raising awareness about the plight of Asian-American undocumented college students, most of whom were brought to the U.S. as young children, and grew up in working class, immigrant enclaves.
The event was also meant to promote the publication, “Underground Undergrads: UCLA Undocumented Immigrant Students Speak Out,” and to help press for the passage of the California Dream Act that would allow undocumented students to compete for financial aid.
More than 300 undocumented UCLA students (part of around 65,000 who graduate from high schools throughout the country each year) face a formidable wall that Californians are currently struggling to scale, that of budget allocation.
These students, however, have already scored a victory that would reverberate for generations to come – they emerged from the cold shadows of immigrant paranoia and boldly spoke out.
“We are a rapidly-growing profoundly intelligent and culturally unique population, we are a goldmine,” says Bhamani, who had to excise extra improvisational skills and creative alibis to be able to outwit her adamant grandfather so she could hop in a bus to Filipinotown that day.
“The US government must recognize us,” she declares.
The California Dream Act, introduced by the state Legislature, would allow undocumented students to compete for financial aid opportunities. Both the California Senate and California Assembly passed similar legislation last year. It was, however, vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On the national level, the federal Dream Act would provide an opportunity for undocumented students to earn a path to legalization by pursuing their education or serving their country in the military. In spite of bipartisan support, a minority of senators blocked the Dream Act from passage last October.
Since the passage of Assembly Bill 540 in 2001, undocumented students have become eligible to pay in-state tuition if they have completed three years of high school in California and graduated from a California high school.
AB 540 was a significant step forward in increasing access to higher education for California’s undocumented students. Passage of the Dream Act will realize that goal.
“My students at UCLA have been trained as teachers, social workers, scientists, accountants, engineers, and health-care professionals.
Their skills are desperately needed by our society. Business leaders realize that our economy needs more trained professionals, and many have supported both the California Dream Act and the federal Dream Act,” says Kent Wong Kent, who teaches labor studies and Asian American studies at UCLA.
“These underground undergrads are forced to live in the shadows. These students have done everything our society has asked of them: they have worked hard, stayed in school, and are pursuing their dreams. They have not failed us, but we as a society have failed them.”
Tam Tran, whose parents escaped the Vietnam War as boat people and were rescued by the German Navy, has traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for the federal Dream Act before lawmakers.
“I can’t work legally even though I do have some legal status. Without the Dream Act, I have no prospect of overcoming my immigration status limbo. I’ll forever be a perpetual foreigner in a country I’ve always considered my home,” the recent UCLA graduate said.
Tam, whose passion is in the creation of documentary films, showed her own video production called “Lost and Found” at the event. It tells the story of Stephanie Solis, with the girl herself as the short film’s “actress.”
“My parents never told me that we were undocumented until I was 18 years old. Since then, my immigration status has affected every aspect of my life,” Solis, a junior majoring in English creative writing, tells the viewers.
“My parents are skilled and intelligent, but they float from one low-paying job to another. I share in their struggles with unemployment because like them, I do not have legal identification. Like a child, I cannot work, drive, or prove my age.”
Angelo Mathay, whose mother conceived him out of wedlock flew to the U.S. to “escape” humiliation in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic-based culture.
“I wanted to come when my father died, but I couldn’t because of my status,” he said.
“As student activists, we are building on the tradition of the civil rights movement and promoting the passage of legislation that will enable millions of undocumented students to not only dream but also start living a life without borders,” Mathay writes in the preface of “Underground Undergrads.” – Philippine News