Marine General John F. Kelly, Chief of Staff for President Trump has again gone out of his way to bash Latino immigrants by saying they are mostly rural people without the skills to integrate into American society. In addition to their rural background, he says, not knowing English means that they do not belong.
Kelly’s ancestors were no different when they came to America, in part, because of the potato famine in Ireland. Except for one thing, they were White and those that he demeans today are people of color.
Cynthia Gutierrez, a 28-year old graduate of the University of Colorado at Denver and the Controller for the New America College, is the daughter of one of those “rural” people Kelly is so much against. Her dad arrived in the United States from Mexico some thirty years ago and, like most other Latino immigrants in this country, worked hard to make a better life for his family.
I don’t understand the notion of language as a barrier to achieving something by working hard with dignity and traditional values. In time, language issues become bilingual non-factors that are only used by some as a poor excuse to degrade people in order to cover their own shortcomings and life in decadence.
After all, it is the Latino millennial energized by the new immigrant community that did away with the high school dropout rate that threatened up to half of that population in the 20th Century. It is that energy that is behind the fact that Latinos are going to college at a higher rate than their White counterparts that previously held the standard.
It is well documented that America’s K-12 system is in trouble to the point that alternatives such as, charter and magnet schools are increasingly seen as a better option for children. Even in that environment however, Latinos have turned what was once a major educational disease into a plus for America.
So, instead of taking Kelly’s misguided opinion as an excuse, we should be encouraging more immigrant and Latino family investment in education. That is in part why I am eager to attend the graduation ceremony for the 3 New America Schools (NAS), a system founded by Congressman Jared Polis with a mission, “to empower new immigrants, English language learners, and academically underserved students with the educational tools and support they need to maximize their potential, succeed and live the American Dream.”
Polis also founded the New America College (NAC) with a mission, “to provide intensive English language instruction to international and F-1 students, as well as permanent immigrant residents. This intensive educational experience will include the academic and social skills that will enable them to realize their potential, succeed in their personal and professional lives and live the American Dream.”
A year ago, I attended the NAS graduation at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) as a new member of the Board of Directors and had an opportunity to have conversations with some of the 300+ proud families of the graduates. You could see in the eyes of the parents, that unforgettable special glow that made the great sacrifice by them and their children worthwhile.
Whatever happens with Immigration Reform, the Dreamers or the intense effort to deport immigrants in a useless effort to maintain political control, there is no going back to the status quo that was. The spirit of “Si Se Puede” that has brought the Latino community to the forefront is irreversible.