Our government has put me in the Scrooge category with their dalliance toward the illegal immigration by Latinos into my community—and into yours. It is Christmastime and I truly would like to be Santa Claus. Perhaps I already am the jolly gift-giver. My $3,776 property tax bill allocated $1,064 for the Los Angeles Unified School District and $235.00 for the Los Angeles Community Colleges.
As a Screen Actors Guild “Book Pal”, I cherish my four hours per week at two local elementary schools where I volunteer as an assigned reader. For over five years I have watched kindergartners, who sat wide-eyed while I fractured their fairytales, grow and change into fourth and fifth graders who rush at me in the hallways to give a hug to the Caucasian lady with the many voices. They miss me and I miss them. Each year there are new students to mystify with the speed at which I can blurt out any Dr. Seuss rhyme without reason.
Who are these loving, well-behaved, English-speaking children? Out of five hundred and forty-six students, five hundred and two are Hispanic; twenty-one are Asian; ten are black; ten are white; two are mixed-race; and one is American Indian. (I have used the ethnic designations and enrollment characteristics provided by webschoolpro.com.) I could tell you this simply by my own personal observation. The number of Free Lunches served daily: five hundred and forty-six. And everyone also gets a tasty breakfast.
Over the years I have become entrenched into the scheme of things at particular public schools. Besides being a regular Halloween costume contest judge, I have also judged the parents of the Latino students. Assimilation into the American culture is not a priority. The parents continue to speak Spanish at the school and at home. I salute these children who are brought into a kindergarten class that is taught strictly in English, along with a daily Pledge of Allegiance to the flag—under God, mind you—and learn their ABC’s just as I did so many, many years ago.
Not so long ago, I suppose, as I can still remember those darned head-on-the-desk daily naps.
The growing Hispanic population is here, they are multiplying, and they are here to stay. The children are bi-lingual. They are encouraged from their first day at school by their teachers and the staff to strive for higher education, to finish high school, and to receive a college degree.
If these children are our future, don’t we want them to be well educated, skilled, and capable of earning a decent living? The City of Los Angeles, the State of California, and the Federal Government need tax-paying citizens. As Governor Mitt Romney stated in the first election debate, “I agree, education is key, particularly the future of our economy.” Thus, to deprive the Latino children an American education would only be cutting our own throats.
I have never held the belief that the children of illegal immigrants are criminals. My feeling has always been that their parents broke the law when they snuck across the border for a better life. My slightly liberal stance on the matter, however, was a bit shattered this week when I volunteered at another public school to assist—along with other Book Pal members—a group of fourth and fifth grade drama students in the preparation and performance of their assignment: A monologue on the topic of A Better Life.
Thirty-five Latino girls and boys and one African-American girl filed into the room. Each actor took on two students to coach for forty-five minutes. Each student held two typed copies of their monologues, typed by their teacher. The result would be their first attempt to recite in public.
I sat in a small metal and plastic chair and my two recruits sat in smaller metal and plastic chairs before me. Beautiful girls, the roundest dark brown eyes, their long dark hair carefully brushed into ponytails. They each handed me a copy of their monologue.
Surrounded by the din of liberal boisterous voices of the actors of Hollywood, I sat in stunned silence as I read silently each piece. The first title: Running for Freedom. The second title: Deportation Must Stop! My heart did not leap from my sweater. Instead, the immediate desire to punch in 911 on my cell phone took over.
Before me were two ten-year-old girls who, as apparent from my reading of their work, had not been informed that crossing the border from Mexico to the United States in the gray of dawn in an SUV was against the law or that returning Uncle Juan—having been convicted of various drug laws—to Guadalajara was not the appropriate measure. More importantly, the union teachers that we pay dearly to educate these children are instilling into these children the right to break the law for A Better Life. After all, who would these teachers teach if the seats were not filled?
I quickly cast my ICE agent badge aside and continued with the assignment at hand.
“What is your moment before? Enunciate and project. This is not the time to be mousy. Remember, a monologue is not a monotone. What is your intention in this sentence? You are playing your mother. Maybe you could wear an apron as she pleads with your papa to escape Mexico. When you go in to meet President Obama, be tough and tell him outright that he needs to stop deporting your cousins! Raise your hand in defiance! Remember, the end result is memorization. Stand tall. Good posture is important. Vary the volume. Show different levels of emotion. Now, go get ‘em.”
Showtime. Thirty-five students recited tales of wandering through the desert until they reached Los Angeles, the Hollywood Sign, or the welfare department. The African-American firecracker told the tale of being on vacation in Mexico and seeing that the children were on the streets and not in school and demanded that President Obama bring them all to the United States.
Applause all around, as I wondered if the stories were personal accounts or stories handed down from a parent or grandparent, maybe an uncle, maybe a social worker.
In less than a decade, will this salute to the criminal crossing of our borders be written in the history books as the bravado retaking of California? Will it be alongside the Boston Tea Party, when the colonists defied British rule? Or will this culmination of the American Dream erase all past history?
I am not an historian, nor do I profess to be an accurate solid fact-based writer. I am writing from my pocketbook; my heart strained by the loving strings of songs to be, hopefully, written in their success, patriotism for their new country, and peace to all.
Written by Juliet Montague