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Does having “papers” equal stability?

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‘If only’ is a phrase of hope, a phrase of possibility and for some a phrase uttered in desperation. What I wouldn’t do, if only I had my papers. This is the mantra of those waiting for their citizenship and those who came to the U.S. without papers. [No, not the pilgrims, but more recent arrivals.] I’ve met highly qualified engineers who are waiting for their permanent resident card. They can’t put down roots, make long term decisions or feel stable. If they move companies, the process may start again or if they’re laid-off they could be deported quickly. In speaking with low skill workers who took advantage of amnesty during the Reagan era, their stories sound similar. They don’t feel stable either and worse still, some low wage workers don’t make enough to sponsor their own children for permanent residency.

What’s the difference between these two groups? One obvious difference is mobility for their children. What parent doesn’t want better for their children. A story in the New York times indicates papers, citizenship or residency, isn’t enough to achieve financial stability. The panacea of these magic papers was distilled with a dose of reality.  Why? A recent report on upward mobility shows the statistically feasibility for their children to do better is tied to location.

The study indicated that a poor child living in a high mobility location had a better chance than a middle income child in a low mobility area of rising out of poverty. Conversely, even if the parents are doing well, statistically, their children have less  chance of doing well if they are in a low mobility area. The interactive map showed that the south east and industrial Midwest had the lowest rates of mobility. What did these areas have in common, the quality of the schools, the single versus dual parent home, the level of integration and community involvement. Some reports indicate the unemployment rate is lower for those with a college degree. However, it’s not just the college education but availability of good jobs in the geographic area and the environmental influences. How far will a parent go for a better life? If a parent, Latino or otherwise, wants the next generation to do better they may have to look at many factors including the location in which they settle.


Julia Perez is an electrical engineer and contributing writer for Being Latino

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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