As the White House and immigration advocates push Congress to approve stalled immigration reform, the issue has sparked widespread debate, prompting many to talk or write about it.
This became evident Wednesday when school officials and members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association announced that three South Florida fifth-graders, all members of immigrant families, won honors in national and regional writing contests about immigration.
Charlotte Leigh, Valeria Rizo-Patron and Carolina Alicia Swain – all 11-year-old students at the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami – were winners of the writing contest.
Charlotte was selected national winner of the 17th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest. As national winner, Charlotte will represent South Florida in Boston when the American Immigration Council holds its annual benefit dinner June 20. Charlotte also will receive an engraved plaque and have the U.S. flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in her honor. Her winning piece will be printed in the Congressional Record, according to a statement from AIC and the AILA South Florida chapter.
Charlotte was entered into the National Creative Writing Competition after winning the regional contest.
Valeria was the second-place winner in the regional competition and Carolina was the third-place winner. Carolina, Charlotte and Valeria were honored at a school assembly last week. Also on hand was Miami immigration judge Lourdes Rodríguez — a Carrollton alumnus.
Each of the fifth-graders wrote a poem, inspired by research into immigration — including Ellis Island, the nation’s chief immigrant port of entry from 1892 to 1954.
Charlotte, the only actual immigrant among the three students, titled her poem The Land of Opportunity.
Here’s a passage from The Land of Opportunity by British-born Charlotte: “Ten years past for our family, it’s a different story, they are settled in America and living in glory, their minds have cleared of their nightmare past, they are living their dreams at long last.”
Valeria, whose parents came from Peru, wrote a poem titled Becoming an American Citizen. A passage: “You are in America! You eat YOUR food, you dance YOUR dance, you live YOUR life, you sing YOUR song.”
Carolina, whose grandparents came from Cuba, wrote an untitled poem that says in part: “In America we have many cultures, like Japanese or Cuban, everyone’s special, bringing gifts to the table.”
The contest was sponsored by the American Immigration Council, a Washington-based advocacy group that promotes immigration by highlighting the nation’s immigrant history.