Many people view President Barack Obama’s executive order from a disciplinary point of view. However, there are real people and real stories behind the millions of people who live in the United States without proper documentation.
School Children Affected By Obama’s Actions
A Catholic school near Boston is one place where a lot of young people will be very happy about this decision. The kids were sitting together in their classroom, listening to the teacher and trying to think about their favorite subjects. A girl loved English, while a boy was obsessed with Maths. One girl enjoyed learning about religion, while another boy just wanted to go outside and play sports.
Aside from one student, all of these children came from a Hispanic background. Their current home is located less than five miles away from Boston. It is a small town, with a population of less than 100,000. Most of the people living there are Hispanic: 75% according to the latest census count. Unfortunately, most residents of Lawrence, MA are below the poverty line, with an average income of less than $20,000 a year.
Despite their meager surroundings and lack of money, the children and their parents enjoy this town very much. The parents get up every morning, help their children get ready for school, and take them to an old city building that now houses their classrooms. The parents are so proud that their kids are attending this Catholic school in the United States. They may not have papers, some may have come into the country illegally, but most of their children were born in this country. These are the people who will benefit from President Obama’s announcement on United States immigration policy.
The city they live in has a rich history, with Irish, Polish, Italian and Greek people living here at one time or another. Now it is home to Hispanic communities. People who are proud of their culture, but equally proud to be living in the United States.
Pastor’s Words on Immigration Policy
The pastor of a local church in Lawrence had a few words about the undocumented population in the city. “They are just like you and me. These people came to the country for the same reasons our ancestors came. They want a better life, they want opportunity, and they want to live without fear of persecution or abuse,” he said.
“This is a country of immigrants,” he went on to say. “We all have a past that traces back to some other country. Many of us came from Europe, while others moved from north of the border or down south. Even Jesus Christ was a refugee during part of his life. Instead of wondering how we can help these people, many of whom go through hardship just to get here, we are too busy worried about how to get rid of them.”
“Most of the children of these parents were born in the United States. They did not ask to be born to undocumented parents. They have rights, the same way other United States citizens have rights. But what of their parents? Do they not have the right to live their lives with dignity and in broad daylight? These people work, they pull their weight. They will take any job if it pays them a decent wage,” he continued to say.
Building Their Lives In The United States
The Catholic Church and this Catholic school plays a major role in the everyday lives of Lawrence’s citizens. Most of the undocumented parents in Lawrence are grateful that the school allows their children to attend, no questions asked. There are tuition fees associated with the school, but most students receive financial aid through community donations.
There are over 500 students at the school, called Lawrence Catholic Academy. Grades K to 8 are taught here, with students going on to the local high school afterwards. From the outside, the school may appear completely normal. But educating the children of undocumented people is never easy.
For example, many parents who pay tuition for their kids will do so by cash or money orders. They may not have a bank account, or it may be in a false name. The school does not ask too many questions and the parents are grateful for that.
The principal of the school, Jorge Hernandez, is the son of an immigrant himself. He built a better life for himself through education. After studying at Villanova, he ended up in Lawrence as a school administrator. Running the academy gives him great pleasure.
“It may sound like a cliche, but when I look at these kids I really see myself. They have the same past that I did, and I hope their futures can be even better than mine,” he said.
School Principal Hernandez
Mr. Hernandez may be a well educated school principal, but he struggled to get where he is today. Born in Los Angeles, both Hernandez’s parents came to the United States through Mexico by crossing the border. His father worked at a metal factory, while his mother took care of the home and worked odd jobs when they needed more money.
The school’s principal has fond recollections of President Ronald Reagan, who enacted an amnesty law that provided legality to many illegals who had been living in the United States without documents. He remembers how the constant threat of his parents being sent home was finally lifted.
Old Buildings Provide New Hope
The building where Lawrence Academy sits may be decades old, but the semi-renovated classrooms offer hope for the children of immigrants. These parents scarified everything to enter the United States, and they hope their children will reap the rewards.
There may be a lot of hysteria right now in relation to President Obama’s immigration speech. Many people are upset that illegal immigrants may get something close to amnesty. Those people may have a point, but they fail to see the humanity of the situation. At the end of the day, undocumented people are just citizens who want to improve their lives. They work hard every day for themselves and their children.
The actions taken by President Obama will give hope to many families. Millions of immigrants may not get citizenship, but the threat of deportation will no longer remain.
No Logic in Mass Deportation
While President Obama’s speech offers a relief to illegal immigrants, the reality is something different. Mass deportation was never a policy the United States could enact. It would be physically and logistically impossible to move millions of people back to their home countries.
Sister Ellen, one of the teachers at Lawrence Academy, has been teaching children for more than 50 years. Her life’s work has been dedicated to giving young people an education. As she sat outside watching her class play during recess, she spoke about her passion for teaching.
She praised the kids at the school, talking about their polite manners, good morals and enthusiasm for learning. As for whether they are undocumented or not, Sister Ellen said she “did not care”. “Besides,” she continued, “they are not going anywhere.”