The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.
News & Resources
Featured, North America, Opinion, the ensemble
Alex Rosales Garcia, Teaching Artist/Bassoonist
Undocumented immigrants share the unique experience of eventually facing the implications of their legal status. For me, that understanding developed in middle school – six years after I crossed the border into the U.S. in 1995, with only shoes, pants, and a sweatshirt. My revelation came on the day our class learned of a school trip to Washington D.C. My mother commented that I did not have acceptable identification for the school trip. Also, I would not be able to acquire a driver license, jobs with benefits, eligibility for college financial aid, or ability to travel outside the country. I was instructed to avoid interactions with police officers and be selective about to whom I told the truth.
Nearly 20 years later, I took the oath of U.S. citizenship at the Los Angeles Convention Center – marking the conclusion of an arduous, decades-long immigration process. By then, I was 26 and finishing a graduate certificate. It was not until I began teaching for that I became aware of the value of my past experiences, and the advantages they afforded me when connecting with students/families.
Undocumented students face the persisting adversity of feeling like a perpetual foreigners, especially as we hear increasingly divisive rhetoric about the evils of “illegal alien invasion.” It results in the false perception of being a “sub-resident,” with no place in society; often, they simultaneously lose connection to their home country. During my childhood, I felt most comfortable in programs where educators celebrated diversity by integrating similarities across cultures – encouraging students to feel a lasting sense of ownership and pride in their communities.
Language barriers, culture shock, and increasingly xenophobic rhetoric are the challenges that go with the immense courage and sacrifice it takes for undocumented parents to build a new home. At YOLA at EXPO, teaching artists are encouraged to meet individually with parents. This allows me to introduce myself and express gratitude to parents who have previously mentioned their undocumented status. Acknowledging and celebrating the parents of undocumented youth is crucial in the formation of a lasting community.
As we educators fight for compassionate change in our immigration system, we can focus our efforts on combining our shared knowledge into strategies that strengthen our programs and communities.