To the Editor:
I am a secondary education English major at Rhode Island College (RIC), minoring in rhetoric in writing. To complete my minor, I had to undergo an internship that naturally had an emphasis on rhetoric and writing. In one of my undergrad education courses I met Nilson DaSilva, a migrant and former high school principal from Brazil who is currently a modern languages teacher at Central Falls High School. Since he has a master’s degree he is eligible to teach, but his education degree from Brazil is not honored in the United States. Therefore he, an experienced educator, had to take the same courses that I, an inexperienced educator and U.S. citizen, had to take to gain the same credibility he has earned a dozen times over.
Aside from being a teacher, Nilson founded a program called the Homestay English Immersion Program (HEIP), which I found out as we began to work together in that course. He asked me to work with him in his program that summer, and since it fulfilled my internship requirements, I was glad to work with him. The internship went smoothly; I created a great deal of documents for him and learned a great deal about emergent bilinguals from countries across the world.
Since he is a migrant from Brazil, to fully participate in the public occurrences of the everyday as a public intellectual, he applied for citizenship, which is of course an arduous process.
Even though he has family back in Brazil, Nilson has found a niche for himself in Rhode Island, prompting this decision. Recently, he was sworn in as a naturalized U.S. citizen, and had a gathering of colleagues from HEIP to celebrate his citizenship and to discuss the outcomes of my internship. Many of the guests brought cards and gifts for Nilson, but soon we all realized something—there were no cards sold for celebrating one’s naturalization. One woman said she asked a worker at The Paper Store if they sold cards for citizenship, and when the worker asked her manager, she stated that no one had ever asked for such a card. Another guest said that he picked out a card from among military-themed cards because “it was red, white, and blue, so close enough.”
This is curious because it directly reflects the collective capitalist public perception of immigration. The leading political thought on immigration is that most immigrants are coming in illegally; they’re here to steal American jobs, cheat the system, and as the President believes, they “have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
But to entertain this argument that is largely discredited by repeated studies, if there are “some” people who are good, who are teachers, lawyers, managers, electricians, mechanics, doctors, then is that not a good thing? If they can prove over the course of 5-plus years to be promising and upstanding members of the local society by following all the legal regulations, then that is surely worth commemorating. Yet the current sociopolitical consideration of (im)migration doesn’t quite allow for it; it is certainly not accounted for in regular sales. In fact, the easiest way to purchase a citizenship-themed card is online, and while many people argue that most things are purchased online, when was the last time anyone purchased a card in any other place than a store? Cards are the things you forget about until you’re going to a party or event, so you stop at the nearest pharmacy, purchase from a slim variety, and sign and seal it in the car before arriving.
I would think that as Americans, if we are to bestow the title of “citizen” onto someone who has worked hard, proven to be an upstanding member of society, and endured a long wait, the least they deserve is a proper card.
Rhode Island College