Have you ever worried about being deported?” I ask Eduardo.
He starts to cry. I freeze. Oh no, not again; I so do not want this to happen. Tears run freely down his face. I grab my pen to take notes and capture his pain as Scott clicks away on his camera. They say the media are vultures, and I like to think we’re not. But it is part of the story.
Yes I worry, says Eduardo, who is meeting for me in his counselor’s office for an interview about DREAMers, or undocumented students for an article in the April issue of the California Educator, as he recalls the traumatic day ICE took away his favorite aunt and deported her to Mexico, leaving behind three young children.
It is a fair question I have asked him, and it goes to the root of the issues faced by students lacking Social Security numbers. But I feel horrible. He is only 17. I feel especially horrible because Eduardo has an interview with a local university for a full scholarship right after our interview – and he is shaken. I do not want to be the reason he’s not accepted.
I love kids. I’m a mother before I’m a journalist. I’m not Barbara Walters; I’m uncomfortable when people cry and feel guilty if I happen to be the cause. But lately it’s been happening more often. A student cried a few months ago when I asked him how a Peer Court changed his life. The middle school boy sobbed while describing his relationship with his father, and how the court had turned him around. Another student broke down for a story on the importance of counselors, explaining that she had been molested by her grandfather and that her counselor helped her deal with the trauma.
“Eduardo, what will you say when they ask you why you want to attend this university?”
“I will tell them I want to study international business so I can travel and meet new people,” he says, glad to change the subject.
“No. Tell them you want to use your education to make the world a better place,” I coach him. “Tell them that you want to help those less fortunate in other countries develop their entrepreneurial skills. Tell them you want to be the first in your family to graduate from college and that you will work hard and be focused because you appreciate the value of an education. Tell them you will make a valuable contribution to the campus athletic department. Tell them you are a team player with leadership skills. Tell them you are well-rounded, hard-working and have overcome obstacles.”
I coach him for 15 minutes. His counselor, Rosa Marino, comes back into the room. We coach him together.
I give him a hug goodbye and wish him well. (I hugged the other two students who cried, too.) I tell him to forget about everything that has happened and to focus on his college interview. I thank him for shedding light on this important issue.
I feel slightly less horrible.
Eduardo is a bright, motivated student who has been in this country since he was a baby. He’s worked hard to get where he is and has overcome poverty, learning a second language and other challenges. He, like other DREAMers, deserves an education.
I hope he gets the scholarship he deserves, if not from this college than another. I hope that someday he’s granted legal status because immigration laws are reformed. And I hope Eduardo never cries again because he lives in fear of deportation.