Wasting Potential, a Million Times Over

Tim Goral's picture

Put everything you know about illegal immigrants on hold for just a moment and meet Judith Rosales and Pablo Orozco.

Nine years ago, Judith and her mother left El Salvador, crossed through Mexico and found themselves ditched in the middle of the Arizona desert by a man who was sneaking them into the United States. No water, no food. Scary stuff for a 9-year-old girl.

They rode buses from Arizona to Siler City, N.C., where Judith’s dad was working. Judith enrolled in the fourth grade, speaking not a word of English. A teacher, Ms. Marsh, read to her in English every day after school, and gave her a ride home because her parents had no car. Within a year, Judith was in honors classes.

Today, Judith, 18, is ranked first in her senior class with a 4.6 GPA. She wants to be a pediatrician. But her family has little money, and because her mother brought her here at age 9, she is undocumented. “Those are two really big obstacles,” she says. Instead of becoming a doctor, she worried that her education would end after high school and she would work at Burger King, like a friend in similar circumstances did.

Pablo Orozco’s parents brought him to the U.S. from Argentina on visas when he was five. He and his family, evicted from their apartment, live at One7 Ministries in east Charlotte. He is second in his class at Garinger High with a 4.4 GPA and strives to go on to higher education. But as a junior, Pablo wrote a research paper on the DREAM Act. He wrote about the million-plus undocumented students who couldn’t afford college. “I realized I was part of the statistics,” Pablo, 17, says. “That I was writing about myself, not a number.” Without college, Pablo figures he’d hope to land a job as a waiter or busboy.

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