People are People, Not Numbers

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Photo Credit: Arely Escoto

 

With immigration statistics being flown around and used in such ways as either extremely problematical or way too low, mass sums of people are being generalized in the process. No matter who is immigrating or has immigrated, the person and their experience must be kept in mind. Without the individual insight of each person, then overall immigration reform will not be possible. The following is an interview with 1 experience that I wanted to echo.

The interview took place at lunchtime or about 1:10 on Wednesday, March 8th in LL 303 in the Chapman Library. The interviewee had an interview over the phone just after the interview, so time was a little short, but all of my questions were answered. Arely sat directly across the table from me with her freshly opened salad and coconut water. During the interview she took a few sips of her drink to later ask me if I wanted the rest. She said that she did not like the coconut water and did not want to waste it. I asked why she got it if she did not like it. Her response was that she wanted to try something new.

Trying something new is something that is currently under way in US politics today. Instead of addressing the need for new immigration policy, President Trump has sought to build a 21.6 billion dollar border wall. Not only will this prove to be ineffective, but it does not address the larger problem of where undocumented students or Dreamers will go to college. Every year, there are about 65,000 undocumented high school graduates that might not be able to go to college. Every child deserves an equal opportunity to go to college.

Interview

Jon Small: Can you please state your name and where we are right now so we can have that on the record?

Arely Escoto: My name is Arely Escoto and we are in a bookable room in the library.

JS: OK awesome. Basically how does your life experiences shape the story you’re going to identify with today?  If someone asked you where you’re from what would you say and why?

AE: I was born in Mexico, really close to Ensenada, Baja California, which is literally five hours south of the border and I would say Mexican since I was born in Mexico. JS: And now obviously you’re here today in America.  Now what stories are behind that or how did you come from Ensenadas?

AE: There is no “s” at the end, it is Ensenada. My family decided to move here because of with limited opportunities school wise and job wise, the schools over there are horrible. We put in our papers to legally move here and we waited a couple years to move and we got our visas, we got our Green cards, we got everything so we moved in 2001, I think. Yeah that would make sense, I have been here for 16 years. So yeah, in 2001, we moved to LA and we lived there for a couple of years. My mom, my sisters and I moved down to Orange County, Santa Ana. We lived In Santa Ana for most of my childhood and recently moved to Anaheim.

JS: OK, awesome. Now you mentioned that there were visas and I assume a lot of paperwork involved between that transition. Now what does that entail or from your perspective what did you see?

AE: Well it was a lot of fingerprints, a lot of pictures taken, a lot of paperwork, a lot of English, even though I did not speak English, so a lot of translating. A lot of paperwork.

JS: Now I know that you had send over an Article titled “Dispelling Facts About Immigrant Youth” that you are wanting to work on right now, which I thought is very, very awesome especially at this time. Now, I was reading that you talk about the legality to my writ to the US. Now I see that the paperwork may act as a barrier to entry, but would see that policy to change and how so? What are the critiques to the process?

AE: Well I don’t like it. I think it’s very racist. It is the only border we have to the South and it is not fair because this used to be Mexico. California used to be Mexico, New Mexico, Texas, all used to be a part of Mexico. And then the US stole that land, like through violent actions and then they never acknowledged that or they never said “Oh we are sorry” and write that down in the history books. I did not learn about it until college. So, having that sort of legal aspect for a made up border is sort of ridiculous. And then they charge you so much money, like thousands of dollars to do it. And then it is like you are coming from an area that is extremely impoverished, well, we were middle-class-ish, but still did not have that money, which is why it took so long. We were saving up that money to come here and live here. I mean there is inflation of the money. Back when I was young, it wasn’t that bad, it was like 5 pesos to a dollar. Pesos is the currency over there. Now, it is like 20 pesos to a dollar. So, yeah. With the exchange rate, you lose a lot of money. I do not think it is fair that they make it so hard to migrate here, when most, I don’t know if most, of the problems are caused by US intervention, US policy, and US trade agreements. I just do not think it is fair or right or morally correct.

JS: With a very candid response, what would you say would be the best way to reform that process like would a faster and cheaper process be better?

AE: Right now, it is really hard to become a citizen, so opening that path to citizenship for those already here would be the best thing. Then after that, I think it should be tied with the economy, because a lot of women in the United States are not having kids so the market in 10 to 20 years is going to basically crash because there is no more kids growing up and learning the system here in America. I don’t know if it will crash, but it will get there. Opening the market to immigration, like letting that flow through will be very beneficial to the United States and it would be very beneficial to Mexico and any other place that they let immigrants come from. So yeah, that could be like one option and then another option could be, I don’t know, get rid of the border, but then, I don’t know if getting rid of the border would help. I mean a lot of people don’t come through the border anyways, it is a desert area. Who will be coming through a desert area like where a lot of people die like where thousands of people die each year. I think it is less now, because there is a lot less because immigration is very low. It is desert area where you have to walk thousands of miles and it is horrible. A lot of people cross through a river and get dragged through the river and a lot of kids get dragged through the river. They do that and then a lot of them simply overstay their visas, which is the most common way someone becomes an illegal immigrant or undocumented or at least that what happened to me. Making that path for people who are here easier would boost the economy already, because a lot of more people would pay taxes. Well, no, we already pay taxes. That is not a thing we don’t do, because I just filed my taxes. [Laughs]  We pay billions in taxes actually. We could potentially pay billions more if they let us become citizens, because we would be making more. I don’t know, I think the whole not letting people becoming citizens in a country where they live and work in is ridiculous and then deporting people and some people have not lived there in 10 years and some people have not lived there all of their life. It is like, no, you are being deported because you were brought here when you were three years old. That’s crazy. Making that easier or cheaper, well, easier, because the only way to do it is if you do it while you are not in the United States, because you have to leave anyways or there are other ways, but I cannot remember them right now.

JS: As students at Chapman, how has the FAFSA problems that you mentioned in your article divide the role of legal and illegal citizenship?

AE: Well, it would make college cheaper and more affordable, because right now, I do not get FAFSA, but I do get the California Dream Act Grant, which sort of aids in that, but it is a lot less than I would be getting with FAFSA. The Dream Act Grant is in a couple of states, but I do not actually know the statistic for that. But it is through California, so it is a state grant, it’s not a federal grant. We do not get any federal loans or we do not get any get any federal aid. So it would definitely help in that aspect. I would probably still be working, but I would not be as stressed. I just wouldn’t have to worry about where the money is going to come from. My sister would not have to worry and then my sister is actually in Mexico. She went back because she didn’t want to pay into the system here. She would not be getting any money either. She didn’t know what she wanted to do after college, I mean after high school, like a lot of people, so she did not want to be stuck in the community college system, because we would be charged for out of state tuition for that. A lot of people get charged that, the out of state tuition. It is significantly higher than the in state tuition, because you are technically not a resident or a citizen. Some people are residents and residents do get FAFSA. So that is easier for them. It would definitely make it more affordable.

JS: How did you navigate the process of coming to Chapman with the complexities with the Dream Act and FAFSA that you just mentioned?

AE: It definitely made it harder. I did go to a community college for one semester. But that is because I did not get accepted into Chapman, until the next semester. I was able to save up for that. At first, I was paid way more than I am now, because I got different scholarships. It definitely made me try harder because I had to apply for scholarships and grants. The grants would depend. I don’t know. [laughs] It definitely made me try harder because I did have to to apply for those and then it made me focus more on actually working, I mean school. It made me save my money better because all it was used towards my tuition. I learned how to juggle everything very quickly and I had gone to school in Santa Ana for most of my life, all of my life. Well, not all of it. I did go to elementary school in Mexico. I knew the system, but my grades where not the best so I had to try even harder grade wise to keep up with university level work. I took a lot of summer and winter courses just to catch up. I am just trying harder.

JS: President Trump has proposed a wall to block off illegal immigration into the country. What are your comments on that action?

AE: Well, I think that’s a horrible allocation of funds that can be used into a more different and more necessary things like the school system. There are just so many things that it could like boost the economy like the homelessness problem we have. There are just so many other things that can be done. It is like billions of dollars that are being put into that and it is ridiculous because that is not one of the main ways that immigrants migrate into the United States. It is just a fact. And there is already a wall there and militarized. We are already spending money there and it is unnecessary. There is that and spending even more money, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I mean it could be spent in better ways, in my opinion, my very opinion, my very humble opinion.

JS: Some have said that the United States was founded on immigration and others have said that we have the right to choose who comes into the United States. Regardless of the right side of the debate, do you think the United States should have a clear and defined policy on immigration as opposed to the travel ban approach that is currently happening?

AE: It is difficult to say whether it should be kept as is or changed or reformed. That is tough question. [Laughs] I do not think I have the answer for that.

JS: With the newly opened Cross-Cultural Center here on Campus and the I am Chapman campaign programs going on, do you think Chapman is heading in the right direction or move to broader approach from an admissions stand point?

AE: I think admissions is definitely a priority, because admitting more students it will become diverse. It is a given. You can’t really say it diverse when there is only really 40% of people of color. So admissions would be one of the top ways to get more diverse. Even then diverse is such a difficult term to define or categorize because what are you basing it on? Skin color? Intelligence? Experience? Background?  There is just so much that makes a person diverse. Even just being a person makes you diverse and unique. Every person is unique in their own way. No two people are the same. How do you define it? In terms of allowing more Latinos, Hispanics, Mexicans in would be a good way to just help that community, because we are one the largest communities here in Orange County at 30 something percent. But we account for only 17% of the students here and nationwide it is a very low percentage. We have the highest dropout rate, but that is because of sort of culture we are brought up in and the way that education is not a propriety. In helping more students like me get into schools like this just help everyone. There are no negatives to having more educated people in the community and in society.

JS: I definitely agree. What made you want to write the article with Dr. Smoller and your inspiration there?

AE: I have been thinking of writing one since my freshman year. I have drafts and ideas about what I wanted to talk about. I knew that it was something that was needed. There are two main things that pushed me: one was Dr. Smoller telling me to do it like encouragement from factually to get my voice out and the other was the rally that was in front of the library the other week, a couple of weeks ago I think. Where there was a standing solidarity, but a lot of people don’t know are the facts, or the reality, or the hardships that a lot of immigrant students face. I do appreciate the solidarity and the people standing with us, but just standing there, what else are thy doing? Are they actively joining outside organizations that are actively helping immigrants? Are they volunteering in places? Are they teaching people their rights? Are they learning who has rights and who doesn’t? Like there is so much more that they could be doing, but they are not. I don’t know. I just find it a little hypocritical. I do appreciate it and I am not saying I don’t.

JS: This idea of what else can be done fits into what you want to do with a club on campus that you mentioned in your article. What are your thoughts on doing more like the club?

AE: I saw a need for it. My goal with that is education. With that education comes the knowledge of I can do this with it. We can start voting more. As college students we are one of the lowest demographics that vote, I mean that don’t vote. I think learning that our voice does matter and what can do with it as a group of students that has all of this passion and all of this drive to help underprivileged or marginalized communities. It is important to learn in a space where it is a safe space like an academic space with your peers and people who have actually gone through this and wouldn’t normally have the courage to come up and tell you or have the courage to talk about it in class. I am one of those people that does actually talk about it. I have never been ashamed of it. I have always been outspoken about it. I think that I have the drive to do this and that I want to help others and help all of the other undocumented students here on campus. I am not the first one to do this. There are groups and programs and even buildings already on other campuses like UCI, CAL State Dominguez Hills, CAL Poly Pomona, UC Berkeley. Everyone but us, because there is not that many of us here. You see that defecate that there is no need for it, but I think there is a need for it. I think it is about time we do something.

Follow Up Questions

Jon Small: I just had a few follow up questions that you are free to respond and can be completed any time before we get back from the break.

 

What are your thoughts on this article?

 

Would you use the term “Dreamer” to describe yourself or another word or concept all together?

 

What are you studying? What do you imagine for your future? What is your favorite music, favorite dinner, favorite book or writer and what is your favorite current film/TV show? What gives you hope?

Arely Escoto:

So reading that article just made me completely disheartened. She was targeted for deportation simply for speaking out. This whole idea of borders is simply ridiculous and outright limiting for no good reason.

Although I do like the whole idea of being a “dreamer”, in the sense of having aspirations for the future, I think the word is simply too passive. It makes it seem as if students are just sitting there and not actively doing anything toward their future. I don’t think there’s just one word I could use to describe myself– I don’t think anyone could do that. I’m just a person who so happens to be a migrant, but so are millions of people throughout history. It’s not like as humans we have to stay in one place our entire lives, although that’s exactly what the US government is telling us by making immigration extremely difficult and targeting those who migrate illegally. Not only that, the US government is completely ignoring the historical context of immigration, being that Americans were the one of the first illegal immigrants on this land in the first place. This idea of one entity (governmental or not) “owning” and claiming a part of Earth, something that belongs to no one and everyone all at one, really makes no sense to me. How does one group of people have more of an entitlement over another group of people over land?

Also, targeting “Dreamers” alongside trump’s plan to build a bigger wall along the southern border has not only caused problems in and of itself, but completely normalized racism among adults, young adults and even children. It’s sickening to say the least. This article states one event that recently occurred, but stuff like this has been happening throughout the nation.

I’m currently studying political science. For my future, I’m planning to either get my Master’s in Public Administration, study Law, or possibly do both. My music taste ranges and I honestly like anything as long as it sounds good to me. I don’t think I have a favorite dinner because I honestly just love food. My favorite book is probably The Kite Runner. My favorite movie is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or Big Fish, and my favorite TV show is probably The Office or Parks and Rec haha. What gives me hope is knowing life is full of endless opportunities.

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