Thursday, June 03, 2004

Manuel

If you haven't met Manuel yet, chances are you'll hear of him someday; this 14 year old is destined for something great. His academic record is spotty, but he charms his way straight to the heart of every new adult he meets, in part by showing great interest in just about everything: food, music, art, science, history, mythology. In the two years that I've known Manuel, he has managed to convince various adults to give him a free violin, free violin lessons, a scholarship to music camp last summer, and many experiences attending concerts at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, etc. He can be a total pain-in-the-neck, but somehow, when it counts, he manages to impress the right people. He has musician friends from around the world.

Manuel lives in a small apartment full of relatives who live there, are passing through, or just stopping by. When he calls me for help with homework, I can barely hear him over the shouting voices, television sounds, and music in the background. His parents have left him and his younger brothers to be raised by their grandmother, who speaks barely a word of English and is not in the best of health; last I heard, his mother was in prison for something drug-related on one of the French-Caribbean islands where they are from. Manuel is like a parent to his younger brothers, who seem to be quite a handful. He shares a room with at least one or two other young relatives, and has started to complain bitterly about his lack of privacy or even the ability to get all his work done and then go to sleep in some peace and quiet.

Manuel and his brothers are in the US illegally. This is becoming more and more of a problem for him. His family has no money, yet he can't get a part-time job because he can't get working papers. Last summer, he made money posting fliers, but that work is not available during the school year, nor is it really how he wants to spend his time. He had an opportunity to tour with a youth orchestra, but couldn't because he didn't have the proper documentation and can't leave the country. He anticipates problems when he wants to go to college. Today he said, "What if I get into Harvard and can't go because I'm not a citizen?" Another source of conflict between Manuel and his grandmother is that she doesn't take any action to resolve his immigration status (who knows if she can do anything, but he feels like she doesn't even try); she has advised him to marry an American woman as soon as possible!

Add to my list of projects: Contact someone who does pro-bono immigration law. See if I can set up an appointment for Manuel to make a plan for becoming a citizen, if possible, or at least just to get a clear picture of what he can and cannot do, his options...

23 Comments:

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Hi, Ms. Frizzle, your student sounds gifted and determined and he's fortunate to have your support. Have you considered contacting journalist Allan Wernick at the New York Daily News? He publishes a weekly column on immigration issues that appears Thursdays and may have some good leads for Manuel. All Best!

http://www.allanwernick.com/column.htmat

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