This I Believe

Kim - Flagstaff, Arizona
Entered on February 28, 2009

Three weeks ago one of my students was deported. It was a sunny, unusually warm February afternoon. He was skateboarding after school with friends. Suddenly, the police arrived and he was questioned, “Are you legal?” It was a question he had always feared, but he was honest. Handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car, he was driven to the downtown headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Placed in a holding cell, he was not allowed a phone call. By nightfall, he had been driven across the border and released in Mexico. Separated from friends, unable to finish school, he is now away from the community he has known since the third grade. I am a teacher. I do not discriminate by race, gender, religion or documentation. I believe the deportation of undocumented minors is wrong.

My student is not a terrorist. He is a flirt. He is an athlete. He is sometimes lazy, but often insightful and funny. He is compassionate. He loves his family.

Generations of workers have made their homes in the United States; they have raised children here. Suddenly, attitudes have changed; civil rights violations to undocumented persons of all ages are rampant. Many of our neighbors, our friends, and students in our schools are effected. I believe immigration policy must be reformed. Foreign workers and their families could be clearly identified and carefully screened. Amnesty could be granted for those individuals who have already been working faithfully (until recently) in this country for many years Steps could be taken to allow them citizenship.

Every morning, my students and I stand, face the American flag, and recite the pledge of the allegiance. I want the words,“with liberty and justice for all” to apply to everyone in the room.

I can not name ny student, or tell you too many details. However, I can tell you he sat in the second row. He read “Self-Reliance,” by Ralph Waldo Emmerson. He struggled to define the word “integrity” in personal terms. He wanted to be a good person. He had dreams. I want him back in the classroom.

In Sophomore English, we teach these famous lines from Pastor Martin Niemoller, “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” These words are not just a lesson in a 10th grade class. These words call me to speak out– to tell my student’s story.

I am a teacher. I care and advocate for those students who can’t speak for themselves.

Concern, to speak out, is the most essential part of my contract; This I believe.