Harvard illegal puts face on immigration problem-by Marjorie Arons-Barron

This entry was cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

The case of Eric Balderas would make a great movie. The child brought to the United States by his Mexican mother, fleeing an abusive father, when he was just four years old. She struggles as a factory worker to care for him. He studies hard, becomes valedictorian of his high school class, and miraculously gets accepted with full scholarship to Harvard, where he studies to become a micro-biologist. [Rocky-like music plays in the background.] Who knows? Maybe Eric is the one who will discover a cure for cancer. It’s the stuff of great American myths. The only problem is, Eric Balderas came to this country illegally.

According to the Boston Globe, Balderas never even knew about his immigration status until he was in high school. As many know by now, the Harvard sophomore was detained at the San Antonio airport returning from a visit to his mother. When the news hit, along with the threat that he could be deported to Mexico, the all-powerful Harvard community, up to and including President Drew Gilpin Faust and members of the Harvard Law School, sprung into action, and now, happily, he has been accorded deferred deportation status. He can stay at Harvard and study and work. At some point, he’ll have to reapply to renew that status. So we all feel better.

But what about all the other Erics out there, kids brought here illegally through no fault or choice of their own, kids without Harvard connections who nonetheless have much to contribute to the American melting pot? We can feel good about the one story, but what of the policy changes needed to keep this from happening on a large scale?

The Dream Act, sometimes called the American Dream Act, has been kicking around in Congress for nine years. Erics of the world would have to be between the ages of 12 and 35 when the law is enacted. They’d need proof of having arrived in the United States by the age of 17, having resided here at least five consecutive years and having graduated from an American high school. They’d also have to be of good moral character. The first six years, they could be here conditionally so they could get a leg up on their college education or serve in the military for two years. They then would be able to apply for legal permanent resident status. They couldn’t get Pell grants but would be able to apply for student loans and work study.

Would the Dream Act encourage illegal immigration? That’s a legitimate concern, but yet another reason to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Eric Balderas may not like being in the limelight, but he certainly puts a face on one aspect of immigration in the United States. His apparent character makes it harder to demonize immigrants, even certain young illegal immigrants. The time for comprehensive immigration reform is long past due. Without it we will encourage states like Arizona to try to deal with the problems large and small, real and imagined, as part of a crazy quilt of inconsistent local responses. . George W. Bush and John McCain showed that this doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. But now Bush is gone and McCain has turned quisling in the face of a tough primary challenge. Will the real statesmen and women please stand up?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below

3 Responses to Harvard illegal puts face on immigration problem-by Marjorie Arons-Barron

  1. C R Krieger says:

    Well, I was going to blog on this over at at my own place, but this is as good a place as any.

    I wonder about why we think that this queue jumper gets attention, but not my granddaughter’s husband, who is a legal immigrant, having gone through all the frustrations of doing it the regular way.  He is a student at Wright State University, in Dayton, Ohio.  Back in his native Holland he was tracked away from the pursuit of a college education.  While I doubt he will find the cure for cancer—cancer being what it is—I am hoping he will be, in addition to a loving husband, a useful member of society.

    But, the queue jumping is not what really bothers me. It is the hypocrisy of it all.  If Eric Balderas had been an illegal immigrant living in Lowell or Lawrence and wanted to attend Boston Latin The Boston Globe would be all against him coming down and crossing the mythical border to take the entrance examination.  There is that “residency requirement” and every year or so it pops up in The Globe.  Residency requirement?  You have to be kidding!

    And, I am sure that many think that since I am a registered Republican I am against immigration.  Far from it.  I submitted the CV of an alien (but legal) for a position at the company I am now retired from.  Eventually, he became a US Citizen (a bunch of us from work went to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium for the swearing in) and then he replaced me when I went into part-time status. I will be playing Texas Hold ’em with him tomorrow, along with a number of other employees (not for money, just for chance to brag).

    And, I have proposed my own solution to the Illegal Immigrant problem, here.  Note that I don’t get to the illegal immigrants themselves until step 3.  That is because there is more to this problem that just illegal immigrants.  Where is Sky King when you need him?

    Mr Balderas’ story is heart warming and heart rending, but those of us who are voters here in these United States need to vote into Congress some people who will actually fix this problem.  Borders exist for a reason.  There are different languages and cultures and forms of government and folks should pick one and stick with it (eg, if they this the US is better, renounce Mexico and become a US citizen), or accept what they are gastarbeiters and accept that that is not the same as citizenship.  I am not for us changing the anti-clerical government of Mexico and its seven year term for president and its gun culture and abuse of illegal immigrants.  At the same time, I think we should be allowed to have the government we wish, and to take from other cultures what we wish and reject those parts we don’t like.  I am betting there are many US Citizens who think we shouldn’t have tried to change the cultures in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Do they hold the same for us?

    Let the Mexicans, and others, come, and let us give them documents and tell them about our nation and government and economy and culture and why you have to have it all as a single package to make it work.  Allow them to go home if they don’t like the package, but welcome those who like it to our nation and make them part of who we are.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  2. Margie says:

    Cliff, I like your spirit and your philosophy. And you prove my point: we need a comprehensive immigration policy, not just an isolated feel-good story because the case has all the right soap opera elements!

  3. Right in Lowell says:

    Margie… unfortunately, your understanding of ‘comprehensive’ and Cliff’s and mine are very different.