Marisol would say those words sobbing in anger and frustration. She had come a few months ago from a middle class family life that was part of a large extended family of aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. At home, things had gone wrong for her family when her father lost his job and was unable to find work. The scarce money that her mother made as a public school teacher was simply not enough for a family with three children to take care. After moving in with some relatives, the father decided to come here and try to work and save money to send home, so the kids would be able to continue to live a life of some comfort. After being an employee at a government office back at home, he started working in manual labor for the first time in his life, as many other undocumented immigrants do. Working two jobs, he managed to send enough money home while paying for his expenses here. But, life was miserably lonely for him and the more he tried the further away his goal of returning home with enough money to open a small business seemed. Hence he asked his family to join him. Maybe if they all worked that goal could be accomplished some day. Marisol, a very good student in her junior year of high school, was dreaming of graduating the following year and going to college. A goal not as difficult in her country as it would seem here, because of the low cost of government universities and scholarships available for excellent students with no means to further their education. Her father’s request completely crushed this dream. When she arrived in our school she was moved down two grades, due to her limited knowledge of English, making her feel like she was going backwards in time and punished, somehow. Moreover, from living the life of a middle class well protected girl, she came to live in a rundown neighborhood, a very small apartment and a school that to her seemed to have too many rude and odd people. Of lately, her mother looked as if she had lost her usual sparkle, she seemed lost in her thoughts and unavailable emotionally to help her. This was a big loss for Marisol, as she had always been there to help her with any difficult situation. To make matters worse, she was starting to get in trouble with some girls in school who kept taunting her to fight and she was becoming more moody and irritable with everybody both at home and in school. Things really came to a breaking point for her when her only friend left to go back home, as her father had finished his assignment as diplomatic attaché. “That’s when I started hating my father, it was his fault that we were all here, in this horrible place!’’ All she wanted to do was to completely quit and give up. No more trying to learn English, no more homework, or nothing. Why anyway? She could never go to college here without the proper documents. After long and much sympathetic listening and hand holding, she was finally able to listen to some new ideas for ways out of her misery. What if, instead of bulking and hating every minute of it, she could try and take her destiny in her own hands with two tools: English and money? If she started working a little here and there and saving, perhaps babysitting or something similar, maybe she could go back home with enough money to go to college there, as her original dream vision had it. By that time she would know enough English that she could use that skill there to start working and supporting herself while in college and so her parents would not have to help her out so much. Her eyes finally dried out, and started shining. Yes! That was a good plan! Besides, may be the Dream Act! , or other new legislation opening opportunities to talented students could help her achieve her academic goals in the future. Perhaps someday, she could even go to college here after all, but of course, “only if she wanted to”. Last I heard she was working hard on her assignments and there was no mention in school of her getting involved in altercations with girls anymore.
For many middle class families that have come here because of very difficult financial times at home, the reality of starting as an impoverished immigrant in a very different environment, leaving a more comfortable life style, adapting to sometimes scary living and studying environments, in close contact with other immigrants from very different economic, cultural and social backgrounds, is a very difficult adaptation. It is by no means more, or less difficult, than for a family and a youngster coming from a hard life of poverty. It just has its own different set of struggles. This sobbing girl was familiar to me, not at all the first one to express her profound frustration at all the enormous changes her coming here had brought about in her life