Posts Tagged ‘Saint Lawrence’

My Dad and Bill Gates as Advocates for Immigration Reform

March 24, 2008

    When my father moved to upstate New York, he knew his new job would be full of intriguing challenges. Working at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg, but a stone’s throw from the Saint Lawrence and only a few miles from the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge, Dad knew he would face budget challenges common to small hospitals anywhere. Moving into a house which had heard only French for 30 years, my father quickly learned that his duties would be divided between hospital administrator and international ambassador. The many patients from Canada and the international doctors he recruited brought him directly into interaction with our nation’s multitude of immigration quotas, H1-B visas, and international health policies. Though his specific job in a town on the Canadian border is particularly prone to immigration legislation, every city and township in the U.S. deals with immigration laws because of the globalizing nature of the world economy.

 

    This month, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates appeared before the House Committee on Science Technology to advocate for more H1-B visas for highly-skilled foreign workers. Last year’s quotas, set at 65,000 with an additional 20,000 for students, was filled by April. As a result, thousands of skilled international students at our nation’s most prestigious universities were left jobless until January 2008.

    Some critics maintain that these foreign-born scientists and specialists take jobs that would be filled by Americans if the salary was higher. Gates points out, though, that the average salary for these highly-qualified occupations is over $100,000. More importantly, Gates continues, is that these H1-B visas spur economy by bringing in “not only those people for these high-paying jobs, but the four or five jobs we create around each of those engineers” (“Bill Gates Targets Visa Rules for Tech Workers” NPR)

    Other critics say that these highly-qualified workers eventually leave our country, taking with them their money and their expertise and leaving a void. Gates echoes the sentiments of almost 6 million people in this nation who have overstayed their visas when he says that these people “overwhelmingly want to stay in the country” (“Bill Gates Targets Visa Rules for Tech Workers” NPR)

    America must move beyond the outdated idea of anybody being an outsider. Martin Luther King, Jr., recognized this some 45 years ago in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail:” “Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states…Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (Why We Can’t Wait 77). Taken to its logical conclusion, no one in this globalized world can ever be considered an outsider or a foreigner. If our country would work as diligently on our Welcome as on our “Wait,” if we would strive to truly integrate and educate every person within our borders with the same intensity with which many now decry all immigrants regardless of their length of residency, we would begin to reclaim the progressive nature our nation once possessed and the creative edge it is in danger of losing.

 

La Frontera or My Students as Teachers

March 18, 2008

Palm Sunday Entrance to UT-Brownsville- March 16, 2008

    We teachers often say that we learn much more from our students than we could ever hope to teach in a year. This took on new meaning as I marched this past spring break on the No Border Wall Walk from Roma to Brownsville, TX, from March 8-16. Though I can boast good high school teachers and an undergraduate degree in English from Penn State, my real learning started a year and a half ago when I moved down to la frontera.

    I knew no one. My nearest family was 2,000 miles away on the other border. I drove my Dodge Spirit from the Saint Lawrence of upstate New York to the Rio Grande of downstate Texas. It took me a while to reconcile a New York minute to a Mexican manana, and for the first few months I was overwhelmed with the new culture and my first year teaching. I quickly realized my few years of high-school Spanish class in Troy, Pennsylvania, was probably not going to cut it in a place where close to 90% of people claim Spanish as their first language.

    And so, thousands of miles away from my fiance and my family, my freshman high-school students taught me about family, about priorities, about volunteerism, nonviolence, and communication. When I was forced to condense my 16 years of education into a single lesson plan day after day, I quickly realized the important lessons I had learned over the years and those teachers who had done a great job. My students were patient, and over the semesters I have gained a working fluency from a multitude of one-on-one tutoring sessions, parent-teacher conferences, and after-school “Teach Mr Webster Spanish” classes.

    They must have been so proud when I went from monosyllabic responses to being able to understand when they used vulgarity in the class (well, at least most of them were happy). Some students still express surprise when they learn I have phoned home to their parents to tell them good or bad news about their child’s progress in my class; the other students chime in with, “DUH! Ya el habla espanol!”

    So, it was with great pride that I shared the following article with my students on the first Monday of classes back from spring break. It ran on in La Frontera on March 12, 2008.

“De acuerdo con el profesor de inglés como segundo idioma de la Escuela Preparatoria Rivera en Brownsville y organizador de la marcha, Mathew Webster señaló que su razón principal de estar en contra del muro son sus estudiantes (en su mayoría inmigrantes), que llegan al Valle con sus familias para tener un mejor futuro.
“En mis clases todos mis estudiantes son inmigrantes y como entrenador de fútbol, también todos los jugadores son inmigrantes, los cuales tienen familias y una vida en ambos lados, manifestó Webster. “Por lo que creo que este muro es horrible y una falta de respeto a la cultura, la vida y a las familias”.
El agregó que la idea de reparar el dique y utilizarlo como muro sigue siendo algo negativo para esta región ya del lado de México se verá como un simple muro.
“El mensaje para la gente del Valle es tener esperanza, el muro aun no existe y tenemos la esperanza de que si unimos nuestras voces contra este lograremos impedir la construcción”, concluyó el maestro de inglés.” http://www.lafronteratx.com/articles/fronterizo_18389___article.html/marchan_muro.html

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1287042959/bclid1287021539/bctid1453536169

In this 15-minute interview, I was able to communicate in my newfound second language that because my students and soccer players are immigrants and have lives on both sides of the river, I believe a wall is a horrible symbol lacking respect for their culture, lives, and families. I was also able to impart that the message this March was trying to send was that the Valley must have hope, because the wall does not exist yet. We must have hope and unite our voices to stop the construction of this border wall.

    My students, barring the one or two who chuckled at my sometimes forced Spanish pronunciation, were overjoyed to see that I had made this much progress. 7th period even clapped for their maestro. I have rarely been prouder, and neither have they.

    After they said they would continue to give me more lessons, I shared the most important thing they had taught me. The primary reason I am against the wall is not the environment it will destroy, the economy it will cripple, the beauty it will abolish, the politics it will play, or the dollars it will disappear. The main reason I am against any sort of border wall is because my students deserve better than a border wall. Because they have taught me the plight of the immigrant in this country, I will campaign with the rest of my life for real immigration reform rather than symbols of evil like a border wall. Because my students and their families deserve to have the same opportunities as people in the rest of these United States, I am absolutely opposed to any border wall or border-levee compromise that distracts from the real, pressing issue of providing for immigrant students through legislation like the DREAM Act.

    To last year’s students of F210 and this year’s students of F114, thank you for the life lessons you have taught your teacher. I pray I have been able to impart some life lessons to all of you as well.

http://s239932935.onlinehome.us/index.php/brownsville-walk.html