As I am apt to do while driving, I was listening to NPR's news programming as I was heading home from work yesterday. All Things Considered and Morning Edition are programs I enjoy, as I feel they are usually fair and balanced in what they report and how they report it. They were playing a story from Long Haul Productions called American Dreamer, a story about a young illegal immigrant who came to this country when he was five years old with his parents.
As Sam's story unfolded, I learned he loved to play jazz music on his saxophone and if the pieces that were played throughout the story are any indication, he is quite good. The production did a good job at telling his story and how he came to live in America. He is very articulate and I give him kudos for that.
The main meat of the story was about Sam's effort to go to college and his struggle to find enough financial aid to pay his way. One segment had his father explaining how it was not Sam's fault that he was undocumented in this country, that he never said yes or no to the decision to come across the border. He was basically trying to convince the listeners that Sam should be given a break because he had no choice in the matter. This is in spite of the fact that the family came to this country on work visas and after they elapsed, stayed illegally.
As I listened to the story, one thing stuck out to me. Throughout the story, Sam and his family were consistently referred to as undocumented and never as what they really are; illegal immigrants in a country that allows legal immigration. As much as I enjoyed listening to Sam's story and as much as I wish things could be different for such a talented musician, should we feel sorry for him? I do not, so let me explain why.
The story started following Sam as he prepared to graduate from high school and find a college that would except him. It seemed to come as a great shock and surprise to him and his family when they discovered how difficult it was going to be. The main restriction on him was his undocumented status and that fact was bemoaned over and over. In his very articulate manner, Sam himself complained at how he had to find a job and because of his undocumented status, everything had to be under the table. He complained at how he could not legally drive back and forth to work or to college. He complained at how little financial aid was available to him because of his undocumented status.
What strikes me as odd is that Sam or his family never seemed to have a clue that his status would be a hindrance in his quest to go to college. It's as if it just dawned on them when he was asked to list his social security number on a financial aid form, a request with which he could not comply. Even the people around him, his .. full article