being in middle school, when there was nothing to do after school, and when his friends began steadily trickling away from school. What the community lacked were afterschool programs, he says, adding that afterschool language centers, in particular, would probably save a large percent of kids from choosing destructive futures. The problem, he says, is that when immigrant kids start to grow more self-conscious but are still having problems with English, the gangs give them a sense of belonging.
For him, the weight of public opinion about immigrants has always been a welcome challenge. “Most of the time they just see us as crazy people. They think we’re not going to do anything with our lives,” he says. “Sometime they see me as something else, you know with the stereotypes, they usually follow them. But when they get to know me they change their whole perspective.”
But not being a legal citizen of the United States, he knows that his path to achievement could be erased before him any day. In the last two years four men he knows have been pulled over by the police in common traffic stops and have been deported to Mexico. “I’m scared they might ask me for something, and I don’t have it,” he says. For that reason he says he is also scared to go the hospital.
There’s just as much reason to be afraid at the State House, where anti-immigrant sentiment runs high. So why does he risk it?
Why does he stack up his notebooks and tuck in his shirt and wait for a turn at the microphone? “I can’t help it,” he says. “When I see people getting taken advantage of, I go help them.”
** The name and high school as well as some other details about the subject of this profile have been adapted to protect his identity.