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Winning essays reveal teenagers impressions of immigration debate

'Immigration in America,' a forum about the national debate over immigration, was held downtown last night. Students Fermin Lopez and Lin Luohzen wrote the winning essays in a related competition.
by: Chase Allgood, Fermin Lopez

Is there such a thing as the American Dream?

Searching for a dream that has yet to come true at times seems foolish. In the eyes of a hard-working man, there is no such thing as a dream.

How do you expect to dream when your body's too exhausted to dream? We don't live for a dream, but a reality. Dreams don't pay bills but hard work does. At least that's how it's sometimes seen through my father's eyes. Sixteen years in this land of opportunity and yet he hasn't witnessed a so-called 'American Dream.' There's not a day that goes by where he doesn't worry about not having to pay the bills. Day after day of working is endless when you're supporting a family of six.

Coming to the United States as an immigrant, you're faced with many difficult decisions. You choose whether coming here will create a safe environment for your family to grow up in. Will I be able to make it here? Is this really a decision I can handle? Is America really what its all made up to be? Is it worth it? These are a flurry of questions you ask yourself while attempting to cross the border.

Crossing the border is just one of the many struggles we face in this country. From other peoples eyes it's seen as our most difficult struggle. What about finding a home? Getting a job? Getting around? Do you really think these things are handed to us? Not to mention the fact that in every society you'll find racism.

Growing up in Mexico was hard on my father. He dropped out of second grade because his parents couldn't afford to keep him in school. Do you know how bad that makes him feel having dropped out of school because of poverty, something that wasn't uncommon in the part of Mexico where he grew up? Quitting school and working wasn't his choice.

He was seven years old, taking care of cows from six in the morning to eight at night. Then when he turned thirteen he began working in construction. Moving heavy bricks and mixing cement, doesn't seem hard but moving the bricks by hand was hard. Scrapes all over his back, fingers bleeding, body aching, working his fingers to the bone. Working from six in the morning to eight. All for some measly 60 pesos a day. Sometimes there would be no work and all they would have to eat was tortillas with salt, or with pumpkin seeds. One shirt and one pair of jeans is what they had to live with. No underwear or socks.

When he made the decision to cross the border at 17, it took him three attempts to get here. He didn't come here for a dream he came here for the reality, which was to make the money to support his family. It was harder than he imagined. There was a huge difference between working here and working in Mexico. Here he had to be at work at a certain time, and was kept on a tight leash. Having a man breathing over your shoulder, rushing you to work, cussing at you in a foreign language being fired at times for no reason and having no one to communicate with - where's the dream in that? He had blisters upon blisters, bruises as dark as black paint. The abuse he faced was fierce. How can you dream when the pain of a hard days work puts you to sleep? The scars he has are proof of what he's been through.

A dream to him is to win the lottery, and for the world to be at peace. That's a dream. The success of his children is just something he's grateful to see. Having my brothers and I leave our footsteps in history is something he would want to see. He just wants to show everyone that we are the same and have the same abilities.

There's no sweeter joy than to see the success of an immigrant race making it in a foreign country, from being no one to being someone important. A dream he wants to see is equality, but to him there is no so-called 'American Dream.'

The way I see things are: you have to pave your own path, climb your own ladder to be someone in life. My father and I believe you can't build a foundation off a dream, but a willingness to strive and to be someone.

The 'American Dream' to us means nothing.

- Fermin Lopez, a student at Forest Grove High School, lives in Cornelius.

There is nothing wrong with fighting for your dreams

Everyone has a dream. Some people want to have more money. Others are looking for education and a place to be accepted. However, some people live in places where it would be hard to survive let alone to reach their dream.

Every day we hear about places that are closed to immigrants who would like to enter, but because they don't have the right documents, they can't. Those documents cost money, too; so do their dreams. I strongly think every place in the world should be open for any immigrant that would like to enter.

I am a Chinese, born in southeastern China, and I'm proud of who I am. I came here to have a better education that will bring me a successful life. America was the country that I chose because this country could support me with a good education and lead me to my dream. Even though I came with the right papers, I would still hope America could be open for those people who want to enter. In my own opinion I think every human being is born to have the same and equal rights. That's what the United States Constitution says. I believe people have the right to fight for their dreams, also the right to choose to their life.

Education, I think, is the first step to our dreams. The better education that you have, the better job you will get when you grow up. One of my biggest dreams is to become a famous lawyer. I know there are many steps that I have to go though to reach that dream. There is one quote I really like in China: 'You have to fight for your life in order to get a better start. Money won't come to you if you're just sitting there. You are the one that who decides if you want to have a better life or not.'

I strongly believe it and that is the reason why I am trying my best in school everyday. I know in try hard, my dream will come true.

Some illegal immigrants might be refugees looking for a place to live. Their dream might be as simple as a safe place to live and food to eat. They also need a place that will support their dreams and accept them as a member to the country. Their hope is to come to a place that they could call home and not be hurt a second time. I think every country should give them a chance.

Still I think the biggest reason immigrants come is for the opportunity to make more money because money is the first step for most of the people to reach their dreams. To reach my dream education is my first step and I think that is also the first step for many other people, too. Going to a college takes money; too, so they need to earn the money it will take for their education. Then, they can get a better job.

Immigrants have helped the U.S to be one of the best countries in the world today. People have dreams and most of the dreams need money to get a good start. However, education is also an important goal, too. I hope every place should support the refugees because as a human being we should all receive the same and equal treatment.

- Lin 'Lily' Luozhen is an eighth-grader at Neil Armstrong Middle School in Forest Grove.