I have been thinking about writing this blog for quite some time now. For those that do not know me I am a white, 50-year-old teacher that was raised in Central Texas. That is relevant because I have spent the past 20 years living and teaching in the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border. In case you have never been here we are located just north of the Rio Grande river with no real valley to speak of and the vast majority of the population is Latino and Hispanic. It is completely different from anywhere I have lived in my life and I would be lying if I said there was a smooth transition when I first moved here. But it has become my home.
In the past year or so the border region has become a focus of politicians and even more so in the last couple of months when Donald Trump and others have made the immigration question a focal point of the upcoming election. Now I hate politics but sometimes one has to get involved and take a stand and it riles me up and pisses me off when I hear anyone insult and make false accusations about the people I have grown to love. You see the demographics of the classes I teach are at least 99% Hispanic and I sometimes wonder where the other 1% are. But I never see it that way. When those students walk into my classroom they aren’t Hispanic to me. They’re just my students. Some of them are citizens and some are immigrants. Some of them may even be undocumented but I don’t know and I have never asked in 20 years. It is my job to teach the students that come through the door of my classroom and I am going to do my best to give every one of them the best education I can. Furthermore, I was raised as a Christian and the Bible taught me that when we don’t get a choice in who we help. We’re supposed to help them all. So I teach them. If they can’t speak English, I teach them. If they were born in Mexico, I each them. What’s more is I grow to love them. Every last one of them. Some of them have gone from being my students to being co-workers and lifelong friends. Much has been said about the quality of people who come to us from Mexico. They have been stereotyped as criminals, murderers and rapists. Donal Trump said that “Mexico doesn’t send their best.” Well, I disagree with Mr. Trump. While I know that not every person that comes across that border is the model citizen I can point to numerous students that have not only excelled here in the United States but are going to continue to excel and become role models and make this country better than it was before. Students that I know were born in Mexico that attended school and graduated from Texas schools that are attending Ivy league schools and are graduating with degrees in Engineering, attending medical school and are going to stay right here and make a huge contribution to our society. They come from a proud culture and heritage of hard work and determination.
I don’t know much about politics and I don’t know what is going to happen after the next election. But I know I am not going to turn my back on the people I love. The teachers I teach with and the students I teach have become my family and in the Hispanic culture we stand up for our family. I’m not asking you to change your mind about policies but I am going to ask each and every one of you to remember the people you are talking about are my people.