Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2011 Issue »

    Youth Voices: Life, Liberty, and Justice for All

    VANESSA VALLEJOS, San Gabriel, California
    HER Fall 2011 SmAmerica is supposed to be a place of freedom and kindness. People from other countries look at America and see a place of opportunity where they can raise their children. Immigrants see America as a place where their children can receive a solid education and have a chance for a better life. Unfortunately, many Americans do not see it the way immigrants do; they believe that immigrants come here to take jobs away from citizens and to waste their tax money. Some Americans disrespect immigrants by calling them derogatory names or making them work without pay. This issue of immigration has affected my life because it makes me angry that some people in my community and in my country, which claims to be the land of liberty and justice for all, find it so very difficult to accept the fact that immigrants come here for a better life. As I look around my community, I realize that it does not uphold the values of liberty and justice for all.

    In my life I have viewed immigration with the eyes of an onlooker, but until this day, I have not spoken out about my feelings. I live in Los Angeles, California, which is inhabited by many different races and many immigrants. There are people in my family who are immigrants and who are trying to provide a decent life for their families. I grew up with them in my schools and in my neighborhood. So when I see immigrants, or even people who look like they could be immigrants, I get bothered that they are not respected.

    I witnessed the way that my teachers would treat immigrant children, such as the time when I heard a teacher call one of them a “beaner.” At that time in my life, I didn’t realize that it was wrong until the child started crying. I went home and asked my father what it meant, and he told me that it was a derogatory term for a Mexican immigrant. I was furious with the teacher, but I was afraid to get in trouble so I said nothing to her. And even though I was only in elementary school, I now regret my silence and not speaking up to bring justice for that child.

    In my community, you see immigrant workers along the curbs of the hardware stores and outside the markets eagerly waiting for an odd job so that they can feed their families. This is because this country makes it so hard for an immigrant to find a job or even a place to live. Their daily goal is simply to find someone to come by and pick them up so they can then do an odd job such as gardening or cleaning to enable them to feed their families. Sometimes people take advantage of the fact that most of these men don’t speak English and won’t understand half of the words that their “employers” are saying. There are times that these employers will tell an immigrant man to return the next day for another job, and he will get paid then. However, when the man comes back for his money, the employer will threaten to call immigration and not pay him. I have a close friend whose father had to suffer this cruelty, but he would do anything to provide for his family. These actions are so cruel, but they happen very often. The actions of those employers do not uphold the values of liberty and justice for all in my community.

    There are many times that I have seen an immigrant being mistreated. It hurts me to see such events taking place. For example, once I was taking the bus home one day and an old Mexican woman tried to ask the bus driver how much the bus fare was. This woman did not speak English at all, and she had no way of communicating to the bus driver, a Caucasian male who didn’t speak Spanish. This woman was very old and she was getting very frustrated with herself because she was trying to communicate with the bus driver. The bus driver started yelling at her to speak English because “we’re in America” and telling her that she was a “dirty immigrant woman who doesn’t belong here.” At that point I got up and paid the woman’s bus fare and then got off the bus because I didn’t want to be on the bus with such an arrogant and ignorant bus driver. I was so angry that the bus driver felt that he could speak to the immigrant woman in such a manner. It was wrong, and it did not uphold the values of this country.

    Immigrants are the foundation of this country. We, as a people, need to respect and cherish them. Immigrants do so much for this country, and they work so hard to better themselves and to give their families a better life. It is our duty as Americans to uphold the values of liberty and justice for all, including immigrants. We must practice what we preach and work together to make this country a better place to live in.

    The topic of immigration has affected me because I feel that it is so wrong to mistreat immigrants and their children just because they are not from the United States. So now I am taking this opportunity to take a stand and speak out for those who often don’t have the opportunity to speak out for themselves. One day I would love to see everyone in this country upholding the values of life, liberty, and justice for all.

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    Fall 2011 Issue


    Immigration, Youth, and Education
    Editors’ Introduction
    Soojin S. Oh and North Cooc
    The Power of Context
    State-Level Policies and Politics and the Educational Performance of the Children of Immigrants in the United States
    Alexandra Filindra, David Blanding, and Cynthia Garcia Coll
    Growing Up in the Shadows
    The Developmental Implications of Unauthorized Status
    Carola Suárez-Orozco, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Robert T. Teranishi, and Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco
    “Because We Feel the Pressure and We Also Feel the Support”
    Examining the Educational Success of Undocumented Immigrant Latina/o Students
    Things I’ll Never Say
    Stories of Growing Up Undocumented in the United States
    Undocumented to Hyperdocumented
    A Jornada of Protection, Papers, and PhD Status
    Whose Deficit Is This Anyhow?
    Exploring Counter-Stories of Somali Bantu Refugees’ Experiences in “Doing School”
    Toward a Pedagogy of Acompañamiento
    Mexican Migrant Youth Writing from the Underside of Modernity
    Elementary Forms of Cosmopolitanism
    Blood, Birth, and Bodies in Immigrant New York City
    Maria Kromidas

    Book Notes

    Immigrants Raising Citizens
    Hirokazu Yoshikawa

    Balancing Acts
    Natasha K. Warikoo

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