The Hope of an Immigrant

Lucille - Glendale, Arizona
Entered on October 22, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
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The Hope of an Immigrant

If I ever need a cup of sugar I know that I can just go next door or across the street. Our neighboring countries seeking a cup of sugar want an opportunity for a better life and aren’t getting that same hospitality. America was founded by migrants and viewed as the land of opportunity worldwide, but Proposition 300 has abolished hope for these students in Arizona. Although this new law doesn’t prevent anyone from enrolling in college, it restricts students who are unable to provide state identification, from paying instate tuition. They will be paying for a community college that is equivalent to a university’s tuition. This also prevents scholarships from being granted and financial aid even if they’re in the top five percent of their class. This is causing a negative impact on these students who want an education and ultimately hurting our future society. Getting to know my friend and his family who immigrated to America has completely changed my perspective on the word illegal. I believe that citizens from other countries should have the same residency rights for their education.

After our senior year of high school, my friend Jovet and I looked forward to a worry-free summer. Approaching fall we went to our local community college to register for classes. We joked about the infamous years of college life ahead of us. I glided through the process, but it was not so easy for my friend. Jovet’s family traveled to America when he was five years old. They did not go through the specific requirements, by the state, to get citizenship. This prohibited him from showing a legal state id and forbade him to attend college as an Arizona resident. Although he has lived in the valley for twelve years and has done all of his schooling here, he is not a U.S. citizen.

Over the next few weeks we drove the hour round trip to the college and set up multiple appointments with advisors. As we sat in a meeting with an advisor, she asked him to see an id. He told her he didn’t have his wallet with him. She laughed at him and remarked, “Well we have to make sure you’re not an illegal.” I was completely disgusted with her unprofessional word choice. The term “illegal” refers to deadly drugs, ammunition, and unlawful crimes. This word should have never described a human being, much less my kindhearted friend.

I saw his college dreams parish beneath his feet, as well as his heart. I could see the embarrassment, uncertainty, and shame that spilled out of Jovet’s droopy eyes as he sat in the office trying to avoid his biggest fear. His head collapsed into his hands while he pondered his options. He drained his emotions by explaining to me that he was determined to go to school. He explained to me the value of his education and how he wants to absorb as much information he possibly can, but his legal status was holding him back.

After a month of talking to different financial counselors from the school, Jovet’s only option was to pay out of state tuition, which is double the price I had to pay. He was given a payment plan that required him to pay one thousand dollars each week for the following three weeks. This was an overwhelming request because he cannot provide a social security number to get a job. He has to find work within his family’s businesses where he gets paid under the table.

I offered my support and my family offered to help pay, but he couldn’t accept it. His culture persuades him to work hard for what he wants; otherwise it will not be cherished to the greatest extent. His dreams are put on hold for now, but they are not forgotten. He has decided to take a year off in order to collect the tuition money.

After going through this experience I became aware that this is a problem. Becoming legal is a strenuous and long process. For what most take for granted, others strive to be in their place just to feel self accomplishment. If one can prove living here for six months, they should be capable of receiving the same opportunity to get a college education. Jovet constantly praises me for what I have done for him, but I am completely baffled as to what that is. He has opened my eyes and educated me into this separate world that is filled with hope.