Friday, May 25, 2007

No room to be a teenager...if you're an immigrant

There is no room to mess up if you are an immigrant. The consequences are high.

My friend, Monica, who I wrote about on March 11 and March 13, was 5 years old when she came to the United States. She lives and understands U.S. culture. Yet now she faces the possibility of deportation to Mexico because of the mistake she made to attend a senior skip party. (How many of us have skipped school...or tried some point in time??).

I recently watched an Independent Lens documentary that focused on Cambodian refugees who had escaped their country, fleeing to the United States with their parents at the young age of two or three. After getting involved with the wrong crowd or making a bad choice as a teenager (many were forced to live in low-income, high crime areas due to their poverty here in the United States...which made good choices all the more challenging), they now wait, with much consternation, for their name to come up for deportation to a country and a culture they have never known....even if they had grown into productive, community-oriented adults.

Is it reasonable to expect that teenagers won't make mistakes?

Even teenagers in the most comfortable and safe neighborhoods make mistakes. Teenagers who were born and raised here make mistakes. But they are allowed that luxury.

Many immigrant children have grown up here from a very young age and have been enculturated into this country...not excluding the mischievousness, and sometimes wrecklessness, of American teenagers. Yet immigrant teenagers are expected to be perfect or face deportation.

These teenagers are Americans, for all practical purposes, who are being forced to return to an unknown country...a country with different music, different lifestyles, different customs, different language, etc.

There has got to be a better way.
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