Thursday, March 15, 2012

What To Do About a Texas A. & M. Student Who Wants to Get a Graduate Degree and Become a Teacher?

A Hard Question With No Good Answer

The New York Times has an in depth story on a student at Texas A.& M. University who is 24 years old and a graduate student who ran for and lost the presidency of the student body at that school.  Of course while the Times covers elections in detail, the race for student body President at Texas A. & M. doesn’t seem like the type of election that merits a feature story in the national media.  But this student is different.  He is an illegal alien.

Michael Stravato for The New York Times
Jose Luis Zelaya on the phone last week at 
Texas A&M. He finished fourth of six candidates
 running for student body president.

Jose Luis Zelaya stood with a crowd of other students waiting to hear the news. It was election day at Texas A&M University here, and he was running for student body president. A victory for Mr. Zelaya, a 24-year-old graduate student from Honduras, would make history at Texas A&M: He would become its first Hispanic student body president — and the first illegal immigrant to hold the position.

Mr. Zelaya has been in this country illegally for about 10 years.

Mr. Zelaya came to the United States at age 14, fleeing an abusive father and gang violence and hoping to reunite with his mother and sister in Houston

and assuming his description of his past is correct; one can see why he chose to do so.

 he spoke of being undocumented, and described his journey from cleaning windshields at stoplights and sleeping under a bridge in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula to attending the sixth-largest university in the United States.

The young man would seem to be exactly the type of person this country wants in its higher education system.

Mr. Zelaya said inspiring others, not necessarily winning votes, had been his goal. “It’s not about being undocumented,” said Mr. Zelaya, who wants to become a teacher and is seeking a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. “It’s about inspiring people to go to college, inspiring the parents to inspire their kids, to inspire that person who mows the lawn that they can do better.” . . .

“The only reason why I want to be legalized and I want to have documentation is that I can teach,” he said. “I don’t want to do anything else in this life but teach. Because it’s a teacher that inspired me to go to college. All I want to do is to be able to do the same thing.”

but there is the problem of his illegal status.  The Mitt Romney school of thought says the answer is to deny Mr. Zelaya the right to work, the right to housing, the right to any government assistance and make him “self deport” himself back to Honduras.  That hardly seems like a good solution for anybody except Honduras, who would be getting a person dedicated to teaching whose training and education had all been paid for by somebody else. 

On the other hand, those who would say just let him stay do not seem to have the best solution either, because as much as we would all like to welcome people like Mr. Zelaya into our communities, there is the issue of his illegal status.

The solution of allowing Mr. Zelaya and others like him to remain in the United States but have them do something like serve honorably in the military, or in the Peace Corps or in some function in which they earn very little money but provide community support seems like the most sensible answer.  But like most sensible answers, that would require politicians to stop pandering and start solving, and as we all know, that just ain’t gonna happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment