A question has been rolling around in my mind for nearly 20 years:
"Does my daily hands on involvement with immigrants as an English as a Second Language teacher make my commitment to reform easier or harder?"
In late September, when I attended the annual Federation for American Immigration Reform's advisory board meeting, I looked around the room and realized that of hundreds assembled, I am perhaps the only one who actually deals with immigrants all day, every day.
Most immigration reform leaders are focused on Congress and the bills that it generates. About 75 percent of the House is indifferent to true reform; 100 percent of the Senate is terrible on most aspects of immigration.
Hating the Congressional members—or at least hating what they do—is easy.
But while I too I despise most of the Congress, I am in a different spot than the rest of the immigration reform community because of my daily interaction with immigrants.
Gradually, during the school year, I get to know my students. I hear about their lives. Over time, I come to think of them as my friends.
Nevertheless, despite my empathy for all of them, I return home each night to fight the good—if occasionally wearying—fight for immigration reform.
How is that possible?
Since I began teaching, I have started every year by asking my students to write a brief summary of how they came to the U.S. I use this as a tool to determine how advanced their English is and to decide what I should expect of them academically during the year.
Here, taken from past years and with their names changed, is a sampling of their unedited biographies:
This is a glimpse into the abyss—the chaos produced by Washington's de facto open-borders policy and the excessively liberal legal immigration system that is swamping the nation.
Welfare dependency, inability to assimilate, alienation, a predatory attitude to America—it's all here.
What strikes me also is that immigration patterns are so random. Look at the range of things that triggered my students' journeys: screwed-up personal relationships, family bonds, job opportunities and war.
Remember that the group I work with represents the cream of the crop. They are among the few that gets up early to come to school and voluntarily learn English. Other immigrants wandering about Lodi have quite different profiles.
Here is the message that America has sent: Anyone can get in; America is the first port in the storm; come one, come all; have large anchor baby families!
I feel sorry for my students as individuals. They are caught in an historic tragedy.
But immigration policy is not—or should not be—about individuals and their stories. Sound immigration legislation must be based on the common good—what is good for all of America.
I really can't speak for what motivates my Washington, D.C.-based immigration reform friends. I suppose a regular dose of Congressional treason can keep you pretty juiced up.
As for me, at the end of each day, with the memories of what I have just seen and heard in the classroom fresh in my mind, I sit down at my computer to work toward common sense in immigration.
I've saved the best news for last.
Two decades after my mission began, I can finally state unequivocally that the rest of America has finally awakened to the immigration crisis.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.