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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Academic Purgatory?

Response to:

Academic Purgatory:  An illegal immigrant earns a Ph.D.  Now what?

In the July 1, 2011 edition of the Chronicle Reivew, section B of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the cover story by Ilan Stavans, Academic Purgatory: An illegal immigrant earns a Ph.D. Now what?, highlights the plight of a young man, who, through scholarship, hard work and oversight, attains his Ph.D., but is unable to secure employment.  Sadly, this is the reality for many graduates at all levels of postsecondary education; the job market and the economy are in a very weakened state right now.  This is a very unfortunate situation, and I might even be inclined to feel an extra twinge of sympathy for this seemingly well-educated man but for the fact that he is an illegal immigrant. 

Now, before anyone gets up-in-arms, I have absolutely no issues with immigration regardless of state or country of origin, creed or color, religion or sexual orientation; that is, after all, the foundation that this great nation is built on.  I do; however, have a problem with immigrants arriving illegally and then choosing (yes, choosing) to remain as such. 

Early in the article (paragraph 8), the author would have us believe that Jorge, the student on whom the story is based, was “brought illegally to the United States as [a child].” However, later in the article we learn that this was not the case at all.  In fact, Jorge twice tried to enter the country of his own accord, but was jailed and deported, before successfully landing state side on his third attempt.  After a rocky, but determined start, he found himself in the Fresno, CA area at the home of an Aunt where he began attending high school and where he began his trail of lies, deceit, illegality and abuse of the system. 

According to Stavans, the cost to educate an individual student within the public school system is $10,792.  It is unclear in the article how many years Jorge spent in the public K-12 school system; his first attempt to enter the country was in 1996 and he graduated from high school in 1999.  By this, we can determine that Jorge was educated in the public school system for at least two years, putting the cost of his high school education at $21,584 in government and taxpayer dollars.  He then moved on to acquire his Bachelor’s, Master’s and eventually Doctorate degrees – at least another eight years of education – at the average cost of $9,000 per year, bring the total for his postsecondary education to $72,000, part of which was funded by scholarships both academic and private, scholarships that by being given to him were denied to other students.  Ah, but, Jorge is grateful for his education, and how is that the author believes that we should find comfort in the fact that he is grateful?  He should be grateful; he was illegally taking money from qualified, deserving, law-abiding citizens.  Perhaps, worst of all, the colleges and universities that he attended allowed him to commit this robbery; they covered for him and fueled his criminal fire allowing him to continually steal monies never intended for him.  Sure, he worked hard and achieved good grades, but so did multitudes of other students, some who sat right next to him, who did it as legal members of society and this country and in accordance with the missions and visions of the universities they attended.   Jorge is far from alone in his struggle to achieve academic success; there are more students than not who rely on scholarships, grants and funding outside of the typical federal and state grants, and student loans to be able to remain enrolled in college.  The issue here; however, is that Jorge was awarded monies that should have gone to legal citizens or legally attending foreign students - these students were denied funding as a result of his receiving it.  He was awarded private scholarships and grants, and was employed at these institutions all at the expense of the universities, their communities, and their tax-paying, law-abiding, legal populaces. 

While his lack of attainment regarding citizenship is appalling, even more so is the fact that university officials, at more than one institution, turned a blind eye to the crime and assisted Jorge in his deceit.  Covering for him, offering him employment and scholarship money makes them just as criminally liable.  These are educated people – Jorge is an educated man – how is it that no one found this to be an injustice to our legal system and our country’s core values and foundations?  How dare they feel that the time and money they spent is a “significant waste of investment (paragraph 29),” when the investment never should have been made in the first place?  If these people and these institutions wanted to help, they should have helped him pursue, study for, and attain his citizenship in order for him to have attained his education legally – the investment, then, would have been worth it!

I understand that citizenship is not easily achievable, but this man has been in the country for fifteen years; I should think that to be more than sufficient time to at least begin the process!  According to the article, Jorge did not feel that he could leave his homeland via legal means, but has he ever even applied for citizenship since taking up residence in the United States?  Has he considered every avenue, pursued every option, and exhausted all other means by which he could reside legitimately within the United States of America and enjoy her liberties free from the reported abuses he experienced in Mexico; avenues, options and means by which he would be able to take advantage of the many opportunities afforded to American citizens?
The immigration laws are in great need of reconsideration and evaluation by our government, yes, but in the meantime, the law is the law.  There is a right and a wrong, it is black and it is white, and there are no shades of gray where laws can be bent to sympathize with the difficulties of one over another.  Jorge has illegally resided and received his education in the United States.  Period.  He should not be employed in the United States.  Period.  He should; however, have to repay every dollar he was given on his educational journey.  He should, also, offer a very heartfelt apology to, and ask for forgiveness from each and every student who may have qualified for that money, but was denied it.  He should, then, apply for citizenship, or return to Mexico and reenter the United States via the appropriate legal channels, or simply return to Mexico - he is employable there.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Words of Wisdom

A classmate from my CW 501 R course recently asked for our favorite quotes on writing to aide her in setting up a productive writing room.  Because there were only a couple that came to mind, and because they were from some of the author's that we heard from throughout our week long residency, such as:

"Writing is between yourself and the page; I wrote it to be able to read it (Christine Gelineau)."

"If you can't dance, get out of the revolution (Rashidah Ismaili Abu-Bakr)." 

"Don't run from a poet because he speaks the truth (Rashidah Ismaili Abu-Bakr),"

and, one that I can't remember which of our very proficient and talented mentors, J. Michael Lennon and Nancy McKinley, for the week said:

"It's good to remember who you used to be - keep all versions/revision; save each edition," 

I turned to the internet in search of the perfect quote to submit for her wall.  There were a few that I found from one of our pre-residency readings, On Writing, by Stephen King:

"Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s."

"You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will."

"Just remember that Dumbo didn't need the feather; the magic was in him,"

and some others from the famed author:

"Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win."

"I write to find out what I think,"

but the one that I would like to share here is actually a little more than a simple quote, an essay perhaps, by Bob Moorehead.  It inspires and motivates while it reminds us to remain grounded, reminds us of what things we have gained and lost and their value or lack thereof.  It reminds us to be human, to feed those hungers that we so often neglect such as empathy, understanding and compassion, and to express ourselves by giving time to emotion and sharing:

"The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more,
but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and
smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees
but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more
problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,
drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too
little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our
possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and
hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to
life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but
have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer
space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom,
but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but
accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more
computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we
communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small
character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but
broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway
morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything
from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the
showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can
bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share
this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember, to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not
going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks
up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave
your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the
only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most
of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from
deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person might
not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to
share the precious thoughts in your mind."

AS, this might not be exactly what you were looking for, but I just felt the need to write it down!