I send Tomás to…you.

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Last week, Senator Lindsey Graham and a bipartisan coalition of legislators filed the BRIDGE* Act, which would continue the protections of the highly successful DACA program and provide protections to immigrants who arrived in the US as children. 

We need you to contact Sen. Tim Scott to ask him to support this legislation alongside Sen. Graham. Call Sen. Scott toll-free at (855) 425-6324 or email through his website, here: https://www.scott.senate.gov/contact/email-me

This story highlights, in a very personal way, why this legislation is so timely and important.

I am a 4th grade teacher at a Title I elementary school in Greenville, South Carolina. The neighborhoods around my school are filled with families from Mexico, Central America and South America. The children of these families make their way each morning through the doors of my school, through the doors of my classroom, and through the door of my heart. At various times and from various people during the past election cycle, these Latino friends were described with demagogic, destructive and dehumanizing language. I know from my life with them that this language does not tell the real story, does not paint the true picture, of the committed, compassionate and creative people they are to me and to our community.

Let me tell you a story. There is a boy in my classroom. I will call him Tomás, which is not his real name, but he has the earth in his brown eyes, the sun in his smile, and is very much a real, flesh and blood nine year old kid. Sometimes he laughs until he cries, and sometimes he cries until he washes the sadness from his heart, but at all times he keeps those eyes and that heart open to learn as much as he can from the people and the places around him. He speaks Spanish mostly, and English a little, so at the beginning of the year we could barely communicate with each other. He is learning more and more English words and phrases as the school weeks pass by, and I am learning more and more Spanish words and phrases, so we are getting along just fine.

His English to Speakers of Other Languages teacher came to pick him up on the last day of school before Christmas break. “Bye Mr. Barton,” he said with a smile. “I will be back SOON.” He emphasized the word soon because we had just been talking about adverbs during our daily writer’s workshop. “Bye Tomás,” I said with my own smile. “I can’t wait to see you AGAIN.” We giggled and he walked out into the hallway with other English language learners.

Soon he did return again. He walked to my table and placed a letter in front of me. “This is for you,” he said, and he walked back to his table to resume his writing project.

“I am thankful for Mr. Barton. Here are some reasons why.
First you teach me how to do fiction or nonfiction stories.
Second you help me know how can I be good at writing.
Finally you make me happy when you pik me to be the student of the day.”

I lifted my eyes to Tomás. I thought about his Mother bringing him and his younger brother to the United States from Mexico, hoping to make a better for them. I thought about how thankful I am to be his teacher, to work with him every day to help him be all that he can be and do all that he can do. I thought about how wonderful he is.

I picked up my pen and wrote a letter back to him. I walked over to his table and placed it in front of him. “This is for you,” I said, and I walked back to my table to resume my work.

“I am thankful for Tomás. Here are some reasons why.
First you teach me how to be a better teacher because you are a great student.
Second you told me you want to become a doctor and there is a kindness in your heart and a sharpness in your mind that will make you great at anything you choose to do.
Finally you make me happy. You make me happy you are my student.”

The senior senator from my state, Senator Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.) is working on legislation that would protect ‘Dreamers,’ previously undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, and who are studying in schools or working in jobs to make better lives for themselves. In 2012, President Barack Obama acted through his Director of Homeland Security to defer action against undocumented children through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. President Elect Donald Trump has threatened to reverse this action.

I commend Senator Graham for this compassionate, committed step to protect immigrant children like Tomás who are giving themselves to life around us, and I call on him to lead on with further steps so we can work together to build an effective, fair and just immigration policy.

Whenever you hear the words “immigrant,” “illegal,” or “wall,” I hope you see the hopeful, thoughtful face and hear the kind, soft voice of Tomás, as I do. I call on all of us to be Statues of Liberty that say, “Send these…to me,” instead of angry faces that scream, “Send these…away.”

I send Tomás to the United States, to Senator Graham, and to you. Let him walk through the doors of your hearts.

Learn more about Sen. Graham’s legislation – the BRIDGE Act – here: BRIDGE Act Press Release


Submitted by: Trevor Barton, Greenville, SC

*BRIDGE stands for “Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy”

BRIDGE Act Press Release on Scribd