Words for Our Struggling Youth
March 5, 2018, has come and gone.
That was the date the president announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be officially rescinded. As of now, DACA hangs in the balance of the courts and is only protected by a temporary solution to a larger issue for more than 800,000 residents of this country, including 3,000 in Nebraska.
As one of those “childhood arrivals”, I have had the privilege to meet and speak with others who are in immigration limbo. It has been humbling to meet so many wonderful people. Most of them are students and young professionals. They are striving to accomplish so much with their lives, but are being held back by a piece of paper that they don’t have and can’t get. I have met so many wonderful educators, from the elementary to college level, whose hearts ache for these children. These educators work passionately with all students, including those who face DACA and other challenges outside the classroom.
Some students have asked me “what’s the point? While our government seems to keep playing with our lives like we are pawns on a chessboard, why should I even continue trying?”
While those feelings are valid and we can empathize, I ask educators to ponder the following and encourage these thoughts with students you might find in these situations:
- While it is true that some of these decisions are in the hands of others, it is up to each of us to determine what position we put ourselves in. If action is taken to allow individuals to remain in the country, there is a strong possibility it will specifically target people who are going to contribute in a positive way to this country. Stay in school, earn good grades, service your community, attend college if possible. Show your community, even those who may oppose your views, that you are here to help this country, not hurt it. There is interest from policymakers to keep those who are an asset to our communities.
- No one can ever take away your education. The government may deny DACA qualifiers a piece of paper, but they can never take away what we have learned and continue to learn. Although we want to remain in this country, our knowledge and experiences will carry us forward no matter where we are.
- Don’t let outside factors dictate how you live your life. Life isn’t about what happens to you, but rather about how you respond. My life has been in immigration limbo for 25 years. One thing I have learned over that time is that no one decision from the government will change the person that I am or that I strive to be.
- “Nos quisieron enterrar, pero no saben que somos semillas.” Translation: “They tried to bury us, not knowing that we are seeds.” Life has its moments of disappointment and letdown. However, you cannot let those moments define you. We are seeds; we shall overcome any policy or man-made barrier that they put in front of us.
To all educators, I thank you for what you do. As you continue to try to find strategies to help all students and families, remember that you are holding the greatest key to their success – their education. It is education that is going to help them break down those barriers and open doors to their future.
Joel Lemus is a counselor at Crete High School and was featured on the cover of the October edition of The Voice.