Juan Gomez looks and acts just like any American college student. He hangs out with his friends at the local coffee house, attends Hoyas basketball games, admires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, loves a good hamburger and come exam time, studies hard to make the grade at Georgetown University. You could say that Juan has made it…that he’s achieved everything that any American kid like him could ever desire…even more. Except that according to the US government, Juan is not your average American kid because although he’s been here since he was two years old, he has no permanent right to stay here…and unlike other students at universities all over America, he knows exactly when his temporary stay in the country will expire…March of 2013.
Current immigration law in the United States is not working and as a result, there are millions of undocumented immigrants in this country living sub-standard lives because our country lacks the political will to address immigration reform.
As a consequence of our unwillingness to address this issue, hundreds of thousands of undocumented children receive their primary and secondary education in our public school system and 65,000 of them graduate from high school every year.
At the precise moment in time in which these young adults could go on to become productive members of our society, they instead graduate to:
- The realization that they cannot obtain a higher education without significant financial sacrifice because state universities cannot legally offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.
- Dead-end, low-wage jobs without security or benefits, and
In short, they face an uncertain and uncaring future in a country they have come to love, in part because of its promise of a better future for those who want to work to achieve it.
The longer we delay meaningful immigration reform, the more students that graduate under these conditions every single year and if we continue to ignore this situation, we run the danger of creating a permanent underclass of unrecognized, discarded and marginalized individuals.
Instead of welcoming these graduating students into our society — so that they can contribute to the continued prosperity of all — they will become burdens to the state because we will have stripped them of their ability to play a positive role in the determination of their and therefore, our future.
Meanwhile, time is running out for Juan Gomez, his brother Alex and thousands of other students who face deportation to countries they’ve never known or a marginalized and meaningless life in the country that they love.