Since I was a little girl, a certain path of life was ingrained in my mind. I would go through primary and secondary schooling, head off to college, and find a career that fit me. Although I have gained perspective and understanding of the world over the years, I still expect myself to continue on this "track to success." The thing that I never really thought about however, is that there are so many immigrants coming to the United States that once believed this path was possible for them too, but then had their dreams shattered when the time came around to apply to college. This issue is extremely complicated and I am just beginning to understand the life that many immigrants live, and their struggle to obtain rights that I take for granted.
Today, we talked about immigration into the United States and every aspect of that topic itself. We had a guest speaker named Judith Bernstein Baker who works for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society that has been around for the last 130 years. Once an organization that helped Jewish immigrants, it now serves people from many different ethnic groups who are trying to enter this country. Nowadays, the primary reason for immigration is for family reunification, but there are also still a great deal of people who seek freedom from the persecution they face in their home countries. Judith explained the lengthy, nit picky, and slightly skewed immigration process that everyone must go through to try to obtain some sort of legal residency in this country. The periods of time that people are permitted to stay can range from a couple months to many years; but still, the extensive process causes many people to enter illegally, which is the most dangerous and risky ways of reaching America.
In the afternoon, around one or two o'clock, we visited the Juntos organization in South Philadelphia. Here, we were able to talk to a number of undocumented students, many of whom are in the same grade level that we are. We broke into smaller groups and they shared their experiences of entering this country; most of them came when they were very young. They also wanted to hear our stories and learn about the everyday reality that we live in. When this one guy Eric talked about how difficult it has been for him to even keep trying in school because of all of the setbacks and discouraging advice he has received, I felt such empathy for him, and his story made me understand how important it really is for youth especially to have full citizenship in this country. Without it, they are restricted from being able to make the best life for themselves, and many feel such pressure that they end up falling into the "pipeline prison."
I am so glad that we talked about this issue today because, while I know a bit about the problem, I have never had a direct conversation with someone my age who lives this reality. Not only did I learn more about the history of pro-immigration and anti-immigration organizations in Philadelphia, but my mind was widely opened to the struggle of these people; which is one that I only knew the surface of before.