Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MEChA Member Brings Important News To Light

MEChA member, Hector Correa, spread the word about this important news:
Latino Harvard Student May Be Deported

(June 14) -- Harvard sophomore Eric Balderas, 19, does not remember Mexico, but he may be deported there anyway. Balderas was only 4 years old when he became an illegal immigrant. But his youth proved no defense when immigration officials arrested the biology major at the San Antonio airport after he tried to board a plane back to Boston without a passport. "They just kept [asking] me if I had any other documents, that they were just trying to help me so that I can get on the plane,'' he told the Boston Globe. "But at that point I realized there was nothing that I could do, that anybody could do."

Harvard student Eric Balderas, 19, a Mexican citizen who was raised in the U.S., is facing deportation to Mexico after being detained by immigration authorities at a Texas airport.

Balderas was on his way back to Harvard last week after a visit to his mother in San Antonio, where he grew up. But sometime during the visit, Balderas lost his Mexican passport and had hoped to board the plane with a consulate card and his student ID.

But that day, luck was not on his side. Balderas was fingerprinted, put in handcuffs and detained for five hours. Finally, authorities let him go, but not without a court date. On July 6, the student has a date with an immigration judge for his first hearing. Balderas, who has a full ride to Harvard, could be deported.

In 2008 alone, the United States deported 369,221 people to their home countries, many of them to Mexico. But Balderas' case is sure to be more high profile than most.

It helps that he has a success story. Balderas says he crossed the border with his mother, who wanted to escape an abusive relationship and give her children a shot at a better life. He told The Globe that his mother worked 12 hours each day packaging biscuits to support the family.

By all measures, Balderas took the opportunity and ran with it. He was valedictorian of his high school and won a full scholarship to Harvard despite his undocumented status. At Harvard, he is studying molecular biology and wants to research cures for cancer.

"I honestly never thought I'd make it into college because of my status, but I just really enjoyed school too much and I gave it a shot,'' he said. "I did strive for this.''

Already, Harvard administrators have expressed public support for Balderas to remain in the United Stated. The university is using his case to push for the adoption of the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally when they were younger than 16.

"Eric Balderas has already demonstrated the discipline and work ethic required for rigorous university work and has, like so many of our undergraduates, expressed an interest in making a difference in the world,'' Harvard spokeswoman Christine Heenan told The Globe.

"These dedicated young people are vital to our nation's future, and President Faust's support of the DREAM Act reflects Harvard's commitment to access and opportunity for students like Eric."

Last year, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust urged Congress to support the act, along with the heads of other prominent universities.

So far, immigration authorities haven't spoken publicly about the Balderas case. A call for comment this morning to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement was not immediately returned. Immigration proceedings are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Balderas' story is likely to intensify the debate over how to deal with cases of illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children.

Mario Rodas, Balderas' Harvard classmate and an immigration activist, said Balderas is proof that such people deserve legal residency.

"He's like an American, but without documents,'' Rodas told The Globe. "These are the kind of people we need in this country, doing research for cancer.''

Rodas created a Facebook page, "Keep Eric Home," to help rally support for Balderas. So far, the page has more than 600 fans.

Balderas' roommate, David Pickerell, wrote a statement to Harvard's college newspaper declaring that Balderas should be allowed to stay.

"He should be allowed to continue his studies at Harvard, as his abilities will one day contribute back to the United States," he wrote in an e-mail to The Harvard Crimson. "He is one of the best minds in this country, his credentials speak for themselves, and we should nurture such talent."

Balderas said he fears the worst. "I'm very worried, to be honest," he told The Globe. "I'm willing to fight this, of course. I'm just hanging in there."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

MEChA Summer Reflections

As this summer comes to a close, I would like to invite MEChA and friends to reflect on experiences we've had this summer. In particular, I encourage you to write about how these events have changed you, and how that may affect the perspective you take on issues and events pertinent to MEChA in the coming year. Run with it MEChA... this can be whatever you make it.

The first part of my summer I went on a 5 week trip to Argentina, to take the Latin Poetry and Theatre course in Buenos Aires offered by Yale. Then I came back, and took summer classes back at school. Now I'm at home: New Paltz, NY (This beautiful area with an awesome mountain range and forests on one side, and orchards and fields & a small college and hippie/liberal town on the other).

My trip to Argentina was transformative, mainly in the sense that I became comfortable with who I am, and was able to open myself up to the world so much more because of that. You see, I've been in a perpetual identity-crisis for the past 2 years. I think I finally found the answers I was looking for. The journey was a long and complicated one, so that story can be reserved for another day... but what I will share is the conclusion I came to and how that affects my views and involvement with MEChA.

Question: Who/What am I?
Answer: Mestiza
Explanation: Alright, so do you guys know how Anzaldua says that the Chicano is caught between two worlds, in a borderlands of sorts (as far as identity is concerned)? I kind of find myself doubly so, if that's possible (maybe it's possible in some weird "Inception" sort of way... like a dream inside a dream, jaja). I say this because I can identify with the Chicano struggle of trying to find yourself within the American culture all around you and the Mexican roots that seem distant but run deep. Yet I'm also in ANOTHER borderlands. You see, my dad is Mexican. Straight from Veracruz Mexican. As in, has all his family there, we all visit during the summer and for Christmas, he upholds traditions like Día de Los Muertos, and cooks delicious comida mexicana. My mom is Eastern European (and there's a rich culture there too, with traditional foods, a language, beliefs, and all that). That's why I'm so güera. Anyway, I'll spare you the huge story (as I said before) and just talk about my discovery. My discovery is that I identify more as a Mexicana. Not Chicana. Not Europea. Not Gringa. Yo soy mexicana. Aunque niegan que soy una... lo importante es lo que siento en el alma.

Y pienso que tengo alma mexicana. I say this because the person who I'm closest to in this world is my abuelita. I'm named for her too. We wear the same necklace (she got me a mini of hers when I was a little girl)... which is a buho that she says is for wisdom... but which also just makes me think of her and gives me strength. I'm connected to her by my name and by my spirit too. I love cooking bright and pallet wowing foods, and learned the basics from her. I love listening to all kinds of Latin music... but defer back to rancheras as the core comfort. I love forming and preserving amistades... and I think that's one of the most important things in this world. I love dancing bachatas and salsas, reggaeton and whatever else I can learn. I try to be warm and calm, and to keep a positive outlook. I think I have a Latina soul. Speaking spanish since I was young, my connection with my abuelita, all the visits to my family's pueblito in Mexico, preserving customs here in the US, all the times I went back to study and to volunteer.... I guess that all affected me.

Going to Argentina made me come to this conclusion. The reasons for this are also a long story that I'll save for another time. I'll just say that Argentina was absolutely amazing. The class was great, and I had an awesome home-stay where all these young international people lived. I made lots of friends from all over the world. In addition to the class experience and spending time with cool Yalies, I embarked on a full fledged adventure through the streets of Buenos Aires and beyond- learning about the culture, food, way of life.... all of this came, of course, through meeting amazing friends along the way.

All of this will affect my involvement and view on MEChA in a couple of ways. 1) I'm going to dive into cultural events that I love (like take more charge of Día de Los Muertos and try to lead more Mexican traditional celebrations). 2)I'm going to be more vocal about ideas I have for events we can do that relate to my experiences and interests- be it those related to art, literature, psychology, or traditional Mexican customs. Ok, that was a huge thought... but it was good getting it out there. Hope this blog can be a good space for sharing and growing as a group.

~Anna Flores-Amper~