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This occurs not just because workers come out of a shadow economy, but also because people like Ediths mother begin to invest in their own education, so that they can get better jobs. UCLAs Velasquez Institute argues that legalization also creates higher household investments in family-wide education, boosting college-going rates among children, as well as creating very high rates of home ownership.
The immigration attorney Kleiner contends that home sales would also boom after legalization of immigrants. Fighting the myth that illegal immigrants are wholesale freeloaders on the system, he points out: Immigrants earn money. They dont invest in a house when they know they could get deported, but he says that such investments are among the first things they do after they become legal citizens.
The Villavicencio kids certainly took on the mantle of education: Edith went to Brooklyn College, while her sister (now a public school teacher in Queens) went to LaGuardia, and her brother went to Hunter.
But it did take Villavicencio more than a decade to graduate. Spurred by her own life as an immigrant, she majored in political science and became an activist. She left school to become a full-time organizer for three different unions before getting her current job as a field delegate for SEIU 32 BJ and finishing her degree.
Immigrants work really hard, she says with some annoyance at media hysteria in some quarters. Our family, my friendswe all work really hard. In fact, she says, it was while she was working with women in laundries as their field rep that she began to understand her own mother.
Working in the laundries is the worst, she says. Its so hot, and its very exploitative. At one industrial laundry in Brooklyn, where she was trying to fight for the women to get waterjust clean, decent drinking water on the jobthe manager spit in my face.
Villavicencio considers herself a full-fledged American and says she cant picture living in Mexico ever again. But she does, of course, closely identify with immigrants, and when she met those women in the laundry who were working in a place so hot, so far from their kidsI could see my mother in them, she says. She recalls thinking about her own mother leaving her as a little girl: It was only then, she says, that I began to understand.
Episcopal priest Noel Bordador is coming out publicly for the first time. Hes not coming out as a gay manthats something he did when he was first aware of his sexuality in the 80s. But at an event being held by the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, hes coming out as something many people wouldnt assume: his once being an illegal immigrant and becoming a U.S. citizen because of the Reagan amnesty.
There are any number of reasons why Bordador doesnt fit your average Lou Dobbs stereotype of the undocumented. In addition to his being a gay Filipino Episcopal priest, hes a licensed social worker and holds three graduate degrees.
Bordador didnt come to the United States illegallyat least, he didnt mean to. He was only 14 in 1979, when his father sent him and his 11-year-old brother to live with their aunt and uncle in Queens to go to school. But he arrived on a touristnot a studentvisa, and his aunt told him, Well just convert it to a student visa. He recalls not being sure if his visa was ever valid for being a high school student, even before it lapsed.
He also wasnt at all sure about his sexuality. When he arrived, he says, I was allegedly heterosexual, in his own mind and to the world. Not that there werent already signs. When people asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up, hed usually tell them he wanted to be a Roman Catholic priest. But when pressed, he admits, Actually, my first calling was to be a nun.
As his teenage years went on, he hoped his feelings toward men might just be a passing crush, but they wouldnt go away. He went to confession nearly every day. There was one priest who was almost always there, he recalls. And Id go in daily and start to confess, and hed say, You again? Nothing cured his homosexuality, of course, and Bordador recalls a key event near the end of high school: a youth retreat led by the Marist Brothers, who were very open in talking about sexuality. He particularly appreciated a book they gave him that told him being gay wasnt a sin, but he still wasnt sure if thats what he was.
Before the days of well-organized and commonly used resources at LGBT centers, or even the Internet, there was a gay telephone switchboard Bordador could consult. He recalls an hour-long conversation on the hotline as kind of wonderful. He asked me all of these questions that helped me to come out to myself, without his having to tell me, Youre gay.