Miguel A X, pseud.

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Interview Text and Audio


Miguel is a graduate from a Chatham County, North Carolina high school and an undocumented immigrant. He was born in Mexico and moved to the United States in 1999. This interview focuses on Miguel's and his family's background, with a discussion of Miguel's experiences in school and his community. Miguel also talks about the need of motivation for undocumented students before starting college and his understanding of college and the application process for undocumented students, as well as specific policies concerning undocumented individuals.


Ariel Eure: I'm here with an undocumented student that graduated from a Chatham County high school in 2010. Where were you born?
Miguel Alvarez: I was born in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico.
AE: When did you come to the United States?
MA: I came to the United States in year 1999.
AE: Why did you come to the United States?
MA: I came here because, I was very young and my parents wanted me to live with them here in the United States.
AE: Okay, so your parents came over earlier. How much earlier did they come here?
MA: They came here four years before me.
AE: Do you have any idea of how old your parents were when they migrated?
MA: Yes, I have an idea. I think they were around the age of twenty to twenty-five years old when they first migrated.
AE: What was their prior job in Mexico? Do you know?
MA: Job? They had a, when I was a kid I remember they ran a store, a grocery store in our own house. That's the only thing I remember about their job.
AE: When they came to the United States what job did they have?
MA: Well, they had several jobs. For example, I remember them talking about working in Wendy's, Taco Bell or...yes just Wendy's and Taco Bell.
AE: How did you arrive to the United States?
MA: I arrived here, hm, well I was very young, um, I remember me, um I was riding with my uncle in the van and I'm guessing I um used another kid my age's papers.
AE: How far did your parents go in school?
MA: They did not go to high school they only went to middle school.
AE: How do you think your parents feel about education? Do they think it's something important? Do they think work is more important?
MA: They think it's very important. The main reason for me being here the United States is to have a better education because in Mexico it's very hard to have an education because you have to pay, and [sic] here you don't have to pay through high school only college and they think it's very important.
AE: Where did you go to high school?
MA: I went to high school in Chatham County, a high school called Pittsboro, I'm sorry it's called Northwood High School.
AE: Is it in Pittsboro?
MA: Yes, it's in Pittsboro. [laughs]
AE: Did your schools provide you with ESL classes? [tape pause]
AE: Did you have ESL classes in any of your schools?
MA: Yes I did. In middle school I had, I went to ESL class and in high school as well until the tenth grade.
AE: Do you feel that ESL really helped you in school?
MA: Yes, it did help me because the teacher there, the ESL teacher, she spoke Spanish and English which made us have a better communication about school.
AE: Did you come to the United States knowing any English?
MA: No, [sic] I did not know any English when I got here.
AE: Did that language barrier when you first got here did that make it difficult for you to understand some of the course material that you were given?
MA: Yes, a lot, because I remember a friend of mine, back then he knew Spanish and English, he was my friend and he helped me a lot understanding homework. Yes, it was a struggle.
AE: Were there any subjects in particular that you had trouble with because English was not your first language?
MA: No, everything was okay, except math. I struggled through that a lot. [laughs]
AE: Did you like high school?
MA: Yes, I liked it a lot, but I liked middle school better.
AE: How was the ethnic or racial makeup of your school, where there a lot of Latinos, were there a lot of immigrant families? How was it set up?
MA: In my high school it was equally divided by races. There were equal amount of white people, black people, Hispanic people, even Chinese people. It was equally people.
AE: In your ESL classes where would you say the majority of the students are from?
MA: Yeah, that's an easy one. The majority was Hispanic people.
AE: From any certain region in particular?
MA: Yes, Mexico.
AE: Do you think that the racial groups in your high school stayed pretty separate from each other? Or do you think that everyone interacted?
MA: In my point of view, I was friendly with everybody, had all different types of friends. But I think yes, the different races stuck pretty close to their own race.
AE: Did you ever feel discriminated against as a Latino in your high school or in your elementary school or your middle school?
MA: To be honest I'm not sure. But if I did I did not pay much attention to it because I was focused on school and making friends.
AE: Were the majority of your friends from your ESL class or from different classes.
MA: It was from different classes not just ESL.
AE: What was your favorite subject in school?
MA: My favorite subject was science because of the experiments and the activities that we did.
AE: Were there any programs in your middle school, your elementary school, your high school, that you think really helped you succeed or gain certain study skills?
MA: In [sic] my senior year I joined a club called AIM Club which focused on [sic] motivating students to do better in class or just be a better person in life.
AE: Did you get good grades in high school?
MA: I was average. I was not perfect but I was not the worst kid in class.
AE: Were there any classes that you had specific difficulty in or that you really excelled in?
MA: Yes, math, I did not do too good in there. I tried my best but I'm guessing it's not part of me. I wish it was. I wish I understood [sic] math more but I struggle a lot.
AE: Any classes that you thought you succeeded in? Or that were very strong subjects for you?
MA: Is art considered? Yes, I liked art and I was considered a very good artist and several times I was asked to do drawings for people.
AE: Do you think your grades could have gotten you into college?
MA: [pause] Yes, I think they would have gotten me into college, but not... [tape pause]
AE: Do you think your grades in high school would have gotten you into college?
MA: Yes, I do, because I graduated on time. Yes, I believe it would have.
AE: Are there any teachers in any of your schools that knew about your status?
MA: Well, my ESL teacher knew about it and I'm sure other teachers did as well, but they just did not say anything about it.
AE: Was your ESL teacher supportive of you and try to motivate you to stay in high school or go to college?
MA: Yes, she did motivate me because I was always maybe thinking that I could not go to college because of my status and she always reminded me to stay in school and do well [sic].
AE: Did you want to go to college in high school?
MA: Yes, of course I did. That's the main reason I stayed and graduated on time through high school.
AE: Were there any colleges you were looking at or researching?
MA: No.
AE: Do you know what some of the requirements are to apply for college?
MA: Well, they ask for your G.P.A. and some do ask for a social security number. That's about all I know.
AE: Did you take any tests like the ACT or the SAT to prepare yourself for college?
MA: Yes, I did take them.
AE: Do you think you did well on them, were they difficult for you?
MA: Yes, they were difficult a lot, because some of the subjects I had forgotten and I needed to review everything again. I would like to retake them.
AE: If you were to go to college what do you think you would want to study?
MA: I would like to study, well I like cars a lot, automotive, and I think I would take a career that has to do with cars.
AE: Why is college important to you?
MA: It's important to me because the reason my parents brought me here is to have a better education. I know that college is the way to go to make my parents proud of me and thank them because they brought me here. I think I should go to college.
AE: Do you have any family members who have gone to college in the United States?
MA: No, I don't.
AE: In high school did you see college as an option either academically or financially? Or did you think you would have enough time for it?
MA: Can you repeat the question?
AE: Yeah, did you see college as an option in high school? Whether that be academically, did you have the grades to go? Financially, did you think you had the money to go? Or maybe you didn't feel like you had the time to go?
MA: I think I saw it as an obstacle economically because my parents work hard but just to provide for the necessary things for example, rent, food, things like that, college money was not there.
AE: Do you know what the restrictions are currently for undocumented students who want to go to school?
MA: I know one. I know that the undocumented students have to pay out-of-state tuition, that they have to pay more, but I also know that it's very hard to get into college.
AE: And also in North Carolina [sic] undocumented students are allowed to go to public universities and community college but cannot receive public funds. So they can't receive any grants or financial aid, so a lot of them have private donors or private scholarships that give them money. So do you think that you could have sought out someone who maybe could have financed your college for you?
MA: Well the person I work for always reminded to apply to college and that she would try her best to help me economically paying for college.
AE: Did you apply to any colleges in high school?
MA: No, I didn't.
AE: What are the obstacles you think undocumented students have to face when they're applying for college and when they're trying to go?
MA: One obstacle that I see a lot is that undocumented students would have problems with transportation because they are not allowed to get a license, so that's an obstacle I see.
AE: How did you specifically prepare for life after high school?
MA: I prepared by having a job and I don't know, just being a better person every day.
AE: What kind of a job do you have?
MA: My job is being a handyman I work for a lady which involved construction, landscaping, painting, anything.
AE: In high school did you see yourself going to college after high school or working after high school?
MA: I saw myself working for a year, for example, taking a year off high school or my education, but then after that I wanted to apply for college after a year.
AE: You graduated in 2010, we're coming up on about a year so do you have any plans currently to apply to school?
MA: Yes I do. I'm researching at a community college called CCCC.
AE: What does that stand for?
MA: [pause] It stands for [pause] community college. I'm not sure.
AE: Where is that located?
MA: It's located near my house in Pittsboro.
AE: How did you feel on the day of your graduation?
MA: I felt very proud of myself because I did what my teachers asked me to do, to stay focused on [sic] my education, to graduate on time with my other classmates, and I felt very proud.
AE: Were you ever involved in the student movement that has been happening currently to promote rights for undocumented students?
MA: No.
AE: Do you know what the DREAM Act is?
MA: Yes, I know a little bit about it. What I know is it's a program to help students, Hispanic students or undocumented students that really want to go to college. After going to college if they do really good they can get citizenship?
AE: Have you heard of any other legislation relating to undocumented students and college access in North Carolina?
MA: No, I haven't heard.
AE: Have you heard about HB11 ?
MA: No.
AE: HB11 is a piece of legislation that was introduced this year that wants to prohibit any undocumented student from going to community college or a public university. How do you feel that bill, do you feel that bill will succeed currently?
MA: I don't think it would succeed because there are a lot of programs out there, people trying to get Hispanic students into college, and if we keep fighting for that dream it will come true.
AE: Have you ever considered going back to Mexico for school?
MA: Yes, I have considered that, because the main reason for [sic] me going back to Mexico and studying would be because there it's a lot easier to apply and I don't have to go through the struggles that I would go through here.
AE: Do you think college would be cheaper in Mexico?
MA: Yes, I think it would be cheaper than here in the United States.
AE: Because as an undocumented student you would have to pay out-of-state tuition even to go to community college, how will you financially prepare yourself to go back to school?
MA: I would do what I'm doing right now. I would work and save money and not spend it on things that I don't need. If necessary I would find an extra job to earn [sic] more money for college.
AE: How do you feel the political environment is toward undocumented students currently?
MA: Can you explain the question?
AE: Do you feel like undocumented students are seen in a negative light now in the political atmosphere? Or that they are seen positively and a lot of people are trying to help them? Do you think people are trying to discriminate against them and prohibit them from accessing education?
MA: I think it's an equal battle. By that I mean that a lot of people don't mind undocumented students going to college and support them. There's also the other side that is [sic] against undocumented people going to college.
AE: Why do you think those people who are anti-immigrant and do not want undocumented students to be allowed to go to college, why do you think they believe that?
MA: I think they believe that because they think we are stealing their job opportunities or we are trying to be better prepared in life than them.
AE: Do you feel that you are not given the same opportunities for post-secondary, after high school education because you are undocumented or because you're Latino?
MA: I think it's more because I'm undocumented it makes it harder for me to go to college.
AE: Are you going to expect your children to go to college?
MA: Yes, I would love that. I think that would be real good for them.
AE: How long do you think it will take for you to get a degree, any sort of college degree?
MA: I think it will take me around three years. I think that's a fair number.
AE: Do you know any undocumented students who are in college at the moment?
MA: Yes I do, I know a couple.
AE: How are they paying for their education?
MA: I know one that earned her, how do you say it, she got her-
AE: Scholarship?
MA: Yes, that's what it is, she got her scholarship and got her education paid for.
AE: Do you think it is difficult for undocumented students to stay motivated in high school?
MA: Yes, I think it's very difficult to stay motivated because, me for example, I was going through whenever laws changed that immigrant students could not go to college then I was very depressed because I thought that my dreams were being killed. I saw some other kids that did not do well [sic] in school, did not stay focused, so yes, I think it's very difficult.
AE: You had an ESL teacher that was very supportive of you and motivated you to do well in school and to go to college. But do you think that the majority of the undocumented students in your school got this kind of support or do you think a lot of them were forgotten about?
MA: I think they got the support because, yes I think the received the support from teachers.
AE: Do you feel a lot of undocumented students drop out of high school?
MA: I remember seeing research about that and yes, Hispanic students had [sic] a high rate of dropouts in high school.
AE: Why do you think undocumented students or Latino students in general have such a high rate of high school dropouts [sic], or have such a high high school dropout rate?
MA: I think the main reason for dropouts is because their parents cannot provide a lot of things for them, for example, clothes, or cell phones or electronics, stuff like that so they prefer to get a job and get their own money and work instead of going to school.
AE: Do you feel most undocumented students go to work after high school like you did or do you think that they really try to go to college?
MA: I think most of them find a job and stay working instead of trying to apply for college.
AE: In your opinion, what is the American dream?
MA: I think the American dream is having a good job, I think it's [pause] having an education, and being able to be someone in life, not just any regular worker.
AE: Do you think that the American dream is accessible to undocumented students?
MA: Yes, I think it is accessible because I've seen several Hispanic people who have succeeded in life and they got what they wanted [sic]. Yes, I think it's out there for everybody.
AE: Do you think it's harder to achieve the American dream if you are undocumented?
MA: No I don't think there's anything that holds you from achieving your goals in life. I just think that laws make it harder. For example, us applying to college and being [sic] accepted, it does make it hard, but that doesn't make it impossible.
AE: Has the town that you live in now changed demographically since you've been here, like who lives in the town?
MA: Yes I think it has changed a lot because I see more Hispanic people in the street or because I see more Hispanic grocery shops, stores that's what I'm trying to say, I see more stores that are out there for Hispanic people.
AE: Where do you think most of the Latinos that have moved into your community are from?
MA: I think most people are from Mexico, but I also see some other people from other places instead of Mexico.
AE: Is there a large population of Mexicans in your town that are from Guanajuato?
MA: [pause] Yes, there is.
AE: With this influx of Latinos to the area and immigrants to the area, do you think that North Carolina or your town specifically is hostile to the immigrant population? Or do you think that they're accepting of them or that they are kind of angry that they're living there?
MA: I've lived here for a lot of years and during that time I have not seen any negative things towards me. It's not a problem here.
AE: Do you trust the police in your community?
MA: Yes, I do trust them. They're here for me.
AE: Do you think that the laws against undocumented individuals having licenses would prohibit you or stop you from going to school?
MA: Yes, well, no because buses are provided and I don't see that as a problem.
AE: Do you ever fear being deported?
MA: Well, I try to keep my mind off [sic] of that. Because if I do I'm going to live in fear all the time, but I know there is a possibility of getting deported but I just don't worry about it.
AE: Why do you think undocumented students should be allowed to go to college?
MA: I think they should be allowed because there are [sic] many intelligent people, Hispanic people, and there's nothing wrong with that. I think it would be really good for the country, I think it's really good.
AE: What would you say to those who believe that undocumented students are taking up a spot that is for an American citizen in the education system?
MA: Well I think they are being selfish. They are not sharing the great education that the United States provides and I think they should just focus on their selves and not what other people want in life. Well I don't agree with them.
AE: Do you feel you have less access to education because there are so many, there is so much negative, there's such a negative environment around undocumented students? [tape pause, move on to next question]
AE: Do you think more immigrants come to the United States for work or for education and why?
MA: I think they come here for both, both are good reasons. Because in Mexico having a job is something rare and coming here to the United States is a privilege, it's a positive thing you know, it's something that's out there that you can find a job and have opportunity where you want to work at. I think it's both and being in college is something that's beneficial [sic] to your future that will make you a better person in life. You will get paid more.
AE: Specifically, in your home state of Guanajuato do you think that there is a lack of work or educational opportunities or both?
MA: I think there is a lack of work or a lot of competition. But I also know that recently not too long ago they built a new college where I was born. That's a good thing; I think that's progress in the community.
AE: Guanajuato this year was the number one state of sending migrants to the United States. Why do you think that's true? Or why do you think so many people have left Guanajuato for the United States?
MA: That's a really good question. I don't think there's anything [sic] wrong with that. I think if the people from Guanajuato are [sic] the number one migrating people I think it's mostly because they want a better life. They are thinking ahead everybody else who doesn't [sic] migrate.
AE: How do you think that all of these people who are migrating outside of Guanajuato is affecting the state of Guanajuato?
MA: I don't think it's going to affect it in any [sic] way because that would give some other teenage a job opportunity somewhere in Guanajuato, if there were [sic] less people or more people migrating out of there. I think more jobs would be available. But as well I think in the future I think that the people born in Guanajuato would be more educated if they came here, if their reasons to come here was for a better education.
AE: Why do you think education is important for undocumented students?
MA: I think it's important because [pause] [pause tape, move on to next question]
AE: Do you believe going to college is worth it for undocumented students, even though they may not be able to use their degree in the future?
MA: Yes, I think it's worth it because it's always good to learn everything you can in life. There's nothing wrong with that and though you may not, cannot use your degree now, maybe in the future things might change and you'll be able to use it and have more opportunities in work.
AE: Do you think that it's fair that undocumented students have to pay out-of-state tuition? Why or why not?
MA: I don't think it's fair because [pause] we're trying to go to college for the same reason as everybody else, just to have an education. I don't see why we have to pay more than any other citizen. I think that [pause] being here since I was nine, I think that's a lot of years that I've been in school and I think I deserve to pay a regular price.
AE: If you go to college where do you see yourself in ten years?
MA: If I went to college I can imagine myself being [pause] having a really really good job, not having to worry about not having enough money to pay rent or bills or food. I see myself [pause] economically [pause] good.
AE: If you don't go to college where do you see yourself in ten years?
MA: I see myself in the same situation as I am right now, working. Working, living by the weekly [sic] check and just I don't see myself having any savings or being able to enjoy my money because it would all go to, all the money would go away really quick. I just don't see any improvement.
AE: Would you say that although you have limited access to college in the United States you're doing better than you would have been if you stayed in Mexico?
MA: Yes, I mean that's the main reason we came here because opportunities in Mexico, it's very hard and very difficult to succeed. But here just having a job is a privilege. I think there's nothing [sic] negative about having a job.
AE: If undocumented students were prohibited from going to college in North Carolina do you think that you would stay here and work or do you think you would return to Mexico to go to school?
MA: I think I would stay here and work here because just I like it here, it's really nice. I would stay here.
AE: Do you believe if you were a non-Hispanic American citizen that you would support or oppose undocumented students going to college? Why or why not?
MA: I would [pause] agree with [sic] undocumented students going to college. I would be okay with it because everybody deserves a good education. I see it as a positive thing because this country would be better than any other country with more, with everybody being educated equally.
AE: Do you think the legalization of undocumented students or undocumented individuals will happen in the near future?
MA: I don't think it will happen in the near future, but there's always hope. Just keep hoping that it will be in the near future because that would change a lot of things and there will be no more high school dropouts from immigrant students. I think they would stay in school and do better in life.
AE: What sort of steps do you think should be taken to motivate undocumented students to stay in school and graduate and get a college degree?
MA: I think a few steps would be that parents, their parents would have to be more involved in their school, go to meet with their teachers and motivate them more often. I also think that they should join sports, be more involved in school activities and yes, join school clubs.
AE: Currently there's a lot of anti-immigrant legislation, a lot of it concerning education. What do you think are the reasons for this negative atmosphere related to undocumented immigrants and students specifically? [pause] Why do you think there's so much there's such an anti-immigrant environment currently, right now? Do you think it's because they're afraid of the unknown, they're not used to the population, do you think they feel threatened, do you think it's an economic thing? What do you think is there reason?
MA: I think there's several things that explain why this is happening. I guess every year they see more, greater increase in the population and I guess they do feel threatened that we might steal their opportunities in college or in jobs, stuff like that.
AE: Okay, thank you very much.
MA: Thank you.