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MPA, Mexican-American, Border Issues

While born in the USA, I was raised in Weslaco Texas, not far from Mexico, the land of origin for my family. I find myself increasingly drawn to the border and border issues, the moral and political dimensions, the suffering that surrounds or results from the border. The plight of children, in particular, caught up in these border issues, motivates me to work hard to become a public servant in order to protect them and help them to achieve a normal, healthy, and happy life, reunited with their loved ones. The MPA program at The University of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley is the only program to which I am applying for a variety of reasons, especially the fact that, given our location, these border issues are of special concern to us.

Just getting started on my career, by far the most relevant experience that I have so far is the time that I spent with the Southwest XXXX Program as a Seasonal Youth Care Worker. The facility where I worked in Harlingen, Texas - from September through November of 2014 - houses unaccompanied minors from Central America. I conducted intake interview for new arrivals, provided them with food and clothes and showed them to the bedroom to which they had been assigned.  I oversaw laundry and cleaning chores every day of the week. My co-workers and I were entirely responsible for the youth’s safety and health and I took this responsibility very seriously. We supervised them 24/7, day and night, while they were awake or asleep. We listened to these young people and were responsible for reporting any problematic activity or comments to our supervisor. As the days and weeks passed in this position, many of the children began to grow on me and I developed intense, genuine affection for many of them. They opened up to me and shared with me their stories of their journey to the United States. We learned from each other; they saw me as their host and themselves as my guest, an awesome responsibility to which I hope to begin to live up to by earning the MPA Degree with a focus on their well being.

At first this position was stressful and depressing. My first reaction was to feel sad as well as outraged at the reality of so many refugee children who want nothing other than to ‘work’. 9, 10, 11 years old and all they talk about is when they will get their temporary visa so that they can start ‘”working” and sending money home. Many talked about how hard it was to live in Central America because of the gang violence and saw coming to the US as the only way to escape a violent death at the hands of the gangs that rule the streets. One child watched both of his parents die of a drug overdose in front of his eyes; so he moved in with his grandmother who sent him north. While in our facility, he was informed that she had passed away. His only hope of family was to reunite with an uncle in the USA, also undocumented.

At the end of the day, this is where I want to be, listening to the stories of child victims of life circumstances and failed policies, human greed and political domination, the tales of those that fall through the cracks and live at the fringes of human rights recognition. I want to learn their stories so that I can help them, becoming a credit to my profession and my society by constantly searching for and struggling to implement pragmatic solutions to complex problems, always reflecting a human face and never losing sight of the great vulnerability of the many thousands of children that walk across our border every year. I thank you for considering my application.

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