On Baseball, Elections and Undocumented Immigrant Access to Higher Education

By Angela Vidal Rodriguez

Last October 31st , during the World Series Championship Parade, San Francisco Giants baseball player Sergio Romo sported a blue T-shirt that proclaimed, “I Just Look Illegal”.  According to NBC, his critics were wondering “if the message was appropriate, and they didn’t like that such a big sports star would use a parade as a platform to grandstand about politics.”  What I wonder is why Mr. Romo felt compelled to wear this shirt, effectively bringing national attention to the issue of immigration during the celebration of one of his most important achievements as a sportsman?  Maybe Mr. Romo is like many of us Latinos and has a friend, a sister, a father, a student, or a close acquaintance that is an undocumented immigrant.  Maybe his familiarity of the issue has schooled him about the difficulties that immigrants endure when they come to this country in search of better lives for themselves and their families.  Maybe his proximity to this population has convinced him that undocumented immigrants in this country are an important part of our communities and contribute to the development of the U.S.  Maybe he felt compelled to give a voice to this group of people who live their lives trying to go unnoticed, enduring abuse because of fear of deportation.  Perhaps he felt that people were just not listening to an important issue to him, both as a Latino and a human being.  Maybe he felt that a public demonstration of this concern was required.

On November 6th, eight days after Mr. Romo’s “insolence,” Latinos all around the country echoed his concern, and through the appropriate platform of a ballot came out to vote for a candidate that has acknowledged their concerns during his campaign.  Among other issues of interest for Latinos, President Obama had campaigned on educational and immigration issues with a progressive discourse that reflected some of our needs and our concerns. His moves were bold.  In the middle of his campaign, he promulgated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals  (DACA), a policy that would protect some of our fellow immigrant relatives and friends from deportation.  Similarly, his constant affirmation on the importance of educating American youth (of which 23% are Latino) resonated with our community, and we responded to this acknowledgement by supporting four more years of his presidency.

On November 7th, I was excited. I was picturing the turnout of voters in the U.S. (80% of minority voters, 60 % of young voters, and 55%  of women voters) wearing a shirt saying: Pay  attention to us, we ARE an important part of this country and OUR concerns and interests MATTER!!!  I also wondered if my colleagues in higher education around the country were looking at the same picture (well, if not imagining all people in declarative t-shirts, at least listening to the same message).  I wondered if the election results had made them reflect on how they were responding to issues of undocumented immigrants in their institutions, or to those students who, while not undocumented students, sometimes choose to speak for their fellow classmates.  I’m still wondering.

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