With all of the talk on immigration laws, I thought I would share some of my thoughts. My first teaching job was at Mission High School in Mission, TX, down on the Rio Grande border. The school courtyards had large fences with razor wire around the top – something I had never seen growing up in North Texas. It was not to keep kids in, but it was to keep thieves out. Electronic smuggling was big business back then. Although Mission was not a large town, the high school had over 1000 freshmen students and there were many high schools much larger all along the border from Mission to Brownsville. It is a huge Hispanic population. Teaching there was an eye-opening experience.
At the beginning of each year, my classes would not be full. By October or November, they were full – I taught about 150 kids and was one of nine freshmen English teachers. Around April, the class size would start diminishing as kids checked out of school. These were migrant worker families who pulled their kids in and out of schools as they traveled to work. The schools provide ways for the students to get around laws that say they must attend class for so many days a year in order to pass. The term "migrant worker" does not refer to illegal immigrants. Migrant workers are US citizens who migrate around the country to work. They do not have to migrate very far to be considered migrant workers and eligible for all sorts of government benefits. There are all sorts of special programs, special teachers, and migrant counselors for migrant children. Out of my 150 students, probably 130 were considered migrants.
Another interesting thing about the border schools is the ESOL programs – bilingual education, which is big bucks for school systems if they have students who qualify as bilingual. Once again, out of the 150 students, about 130 of mine had been in ESOL programs at one time meaning that they did not speak English well enough to go into a regular classroom when they started school. All of my students had tested out of the ESOL program in order to be in regular class. In other words, the majority of students at MHS did not speak English at one time. Keep in mind that these were not illegal aliens, but they were US citizens from generations of living on the US side of the border. Does that mean they spoke great English or thought in English? Not necessarily. Most of my students spoke English very well, but school (in the classroom) was the only place they spoke English. I wondered how many of them would retain their English or pass it on to their children someday to break the cycle of needing bilingual education.
Since I am speaking about bilingual education, I want to mention that I also taught in Northern NM schools that were predominately Hispanic. When my students in Questa were asked if they spoke Spanish at home, only one said yes. The rest of my students did not speak much more Spanish than I did – which was not much. It meant you might be able to understand a little of what your grandmother was saying, but not speak back to her in Spanish. Even though my students did not speak Spanish, they still received bilingual money from the government. Bilingual money was used to teach the kids about their Spanish heritage and culture. No kidding! There was actually no real bilingual program. At one point, I had a student from Mexico who needed bilingual education. He got thrown into regular classes – sink or swim. He swam, because he wanted to learn and succeed in America, and he knew what the alternative was. Schools in Nothern NM did not get migrant money, but they got Indian money (that is a whole other can of worms).
One more interesting note – besides this one kid from Mexico in the Questa ISD, I had other kids from Mexico while teaching in Mission. I never asked for their papers, so I do not know if they were legal or not. They were good students. They worked hard and were enjoyable. A friend, a Mexican National who had a home near us (his vacation home), asked me to speak English to his kids. He said they must learn English in order to succeed.
My opinion: I would hate to just send all illegal aliens packing. Too many are established and working hard to support their families and be productive in our communities, which is more than some US citizens are doing. To give all illegals citizenship across the board is probably not good either. Apparently, there are those who are not productive. Hmm, maybe we could just send all our unproductive people south of the border. Or maybe we could do like New Orleans and just spread them out over the whole USA.