By Samuel Pierre
When a Haitian American is born in the United States they are afforded opportunities that many others aren’t. You are now a United States citizen, your parents are not. You have access to some of the best schools in the world- your parents do not. You have the luxury of going to any place anywhere in the world with your U.S. passport, your parents cannot. What do you do with all this power? How do you use it, for good or for evil? Many Haitian Americans do not realize that being born in America gives you a competitive edge to success.
Many immigrants fight every single day for rights that average Americans do not even think about. The average American teenager looks forward to getting a learners permit at the age of 16. This act alone marks the beginning of the transition process of getting away from the nest. The immigrant 16 year old may not be as enthusiastic about going to the Department of Motor Vehicles where he or she will have to interact with government officials that at any moment can all Immigration and Customs Enforcement and have him or her deported back to the very same country he or she left looking for an opportunity.
Some may argue that it is not the fault of any American whether an immigrant may feel insecure about getting a learners permit but when you think about the long term effect of living in fear and the long term effects on the community as a whole this can really be a traumatic experience. The fact that this immigrant 16 year old has to hear and see his or her peers drive around and be able to maybe even get a car way before them can instill hostility and jealousy. You are from a very young age instilling the idea that because they were born somewhere else they cannot enjoy the simple things in life.
Fast forward two years later, while all the other seniors are excited about going to St. John’s, Seaton Hall and Syracuse Universities, this immigrant senior has to gear up for a very hard conversation with his or her parents about how they will afford college. Many a time the conversation normally ends negatively and may even put tremendous amount of pressure on the immigrant parents. For the most part, community college is available if they are willing to put the work in and pay for their child’s undergraduate and maybe even graduate education. If the parents cannot afford tuition, then this 18 year old has to go to work at a small business under the table or find alternative ways to make ends meet. Why isn’t there a place for this young 18-year-old senior to go if he or she needs help paying for their education? Why isn’t there a place for the immigrant parent to go to so that counselors can explain the college application process?
Your brain immediately goes to the Dream Act right, an American legislative proposal for a multi-phase process for undocumented immigrants in the United States that would first grant conditional residency and upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency, but why haven’t we passed this? If this program would only cost immigrants $465 dollars to apply and 6.2 Billion dollars a year for the taxpayer, way less than what we spend annually on National Parks, why haven’t we passed this again? If we compare the cost of deporting immigrants to the cost of allowing immigrants in good standing the opportunity to educate themselves in American and earn a living would the numbers make sense?
We need to figure this out. As a Haitian American living in the United States, I hear the horror stories of immigrants getting deported back to Haiti everyday. Majority of these immigrants only came to this country for a better quality of life for them and their children but are the opportunities that were presented to them on TV and the “ dream” that we love to sell a reality for these immigrants? How do we expect for them to live in this country, pay taxes, not take advantage of any benefits, not qualify for jobs, or education or healthcare and still expect them to survive in this land of milk and honey without the basic necessities any person would need to survive?
We need to figure this out, and we need to figure this out NOW!