Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We're Migrants!

Today, I had the good fortune of meeting Alfonso Zepeda-Capistran, Education Specialist/Recruiter for the Title I Education Program here in Wisconsin. He is roaming the state in search of migrant families who have school age children. His job is to interview families to find out if they fall within the federal guidelines that define a migrant. After the interview, he is able to let you know whether or not you are a migrant. If you recall, before heading out from the RGV to Wisconsin, I wrote a post that detailed my plans for the season. Well, according to UMOS, my family is not migrant. According to the Feds, we are. Understandably, different criteria are in play.
What does Title I mean for migrant children? It means that schools get additional funding to provide services to migrant children. This may include tutoring and other special services. More importantly, it's an automatic qualification for free lunch. Back home, in Mission, Texas, all children get free lunch. I don't think this is the case in Wisconsin, but I could be wrong. I'll ask somebody later. Overall, this is an attempt to help migrant children succeed against the odds. The fact is that some of the people I have met on this venture are second and third generation migrants. It's a cycle that traps many young people.
The challenges faced by migrants tend to lead migrant children to follow in the footsteps of their parents. Families that go north early or return to the RGV late have children that must change schools every year. The inconsistent educations of migrant children lend to the likelihood that they may drop out. This, in turn, results in poor job prospects, welfare, and continuation of the migrant lifestyle. After all, being migrant is more than just traveling north for agricultural and food processing jobs. It's a way of life. So, if the worst that a child can do is stay a migrant, which he or she may have known all of his or her life, then dropping out of school won't make a drastic change. After all, there is work up north every year.
Obviously, parents want better lives for their children. If they know how to help their child break the cycle, they often do what they can to help. However, many migrants don't know a better way and are not able to guide their children to it. Without education and special programs, migrant children face tough odds for success. It's not in their interest, nor the interest of society that they suffer economic hardship throughout their lives. I think that welfare, in general, is a bad idea. However, focused programs that address very specific needs like migrant education, as in this case, are very useful. Prevention is the best remedy.
In my family's case, we're migrant because I though I'd give it another go after so many years. We are fortunate in that we have options that many of the families who have traveled north like us do not. It has been both a reminder of old times from growing up migrant and a new experience as a migrant adult. It brings more understanding of the decisions that my family had to make when I was a child. Let's say that I am more forgiving of their shortcomings now that I am experiencing the same challenges. So, here I am, with a fourth generation of migrants. I think this is the end of the legacy. I remember now why I quit.

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