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Bribery to gain access to University does not guarantee knowledge, but it does dishonor it

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Her daily routine is persistent and unchanging: in the morning, work for eight hours, and then innumerable hours divided throughout the week between books, note-taking, essays, and online consultations in order to earn academic credit for her studies at the Community College. “No money for anything else” is a common refrain among those who do not belong to the privileged classes in the socioeconomic spectrum that engulfs us.

Like hundreds of thousands of Dreamers of her age, a group where 95% either work or go to school, according to a survey from the University of California, San Diego, my niece has had to learn, on the go, about this culture of effort that drives millions of human beings to wake up each day to work and/or study, and to discover what exists on the other side of our time and space in the world, that which is no longer so far away, but continues to treat us so roughly.

Like that, she has learned–from this and many other instances–that being an immigrant is not easy, especially in this dark moment in the country’s history we are living in and directly suffering from today, due to our color, our origin, our language and so many other things foisted upon us by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of political power, like a choke-chain collar of prejudices to which they want us to succumb through intimidation.

As if one more aggravation was needed to add to the pile that thousands of young people like her have to sort out daily, Dreamers or not, searching for stasis in their academic lives in order to finance a minimally acceptable future of employment, the immoral way that some U.S. families have chosen to use their great economic power and bribe anyone deemed necessary feels like such a slap in the face to their efforts. This with the goal of ensuring, in the easiest way possible, that their children will be able to attend high-prestige universities, not to absorb knowledge in a particular subject and not by their own merit, but so that a particular “university brand” becomes part of their inflated resumes later on.

Who wouldn’t want their children to have access to Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, University of Texas, University of Southern California, or University of California, Los Angeles? The “Operation Varsity Blues,” brought to a head by the FBI, offers up all the details.

The sewer that this scandal has uncovered involved, among others, prominent figures from the U.S. stage who participated in a bribery scheme so that their children were assured a space in a university, and has only served to confirm the tremendous disadvantage held by the least favored sectors of the community in this country, depending on whether they are white, African American, Hispanic, or Asian; immigrant or not an immigrant; citizen or not.

What’s more, this has been rubbed in their faces, not only by millionaire families like those of actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, but also the collusion of middle men at the universities who greased the wheels of corruption in order to privilege those who were already privileged by the economic abundance in which they live. They lacked for nothing.

Against this backdrop, where it seems that money buys everything, even in a country that has held itself out as a sort of champion of moral righteousness in every way, where it is even believed that justice is applied equally to all, and where corruption is apparently not the norm–at least this is what is said–the decline in the credibility of its success as a society should be wake-up call for those who wonder why it is almost always the same families, the same lineages, who have governed this nation since the early days. “The power elite,” the brilliant sociologist Charles Wright Mills called it.

At the end of the day, families like ours will just have to watch how the great power of these moneyed sectors, who have gotten involved in this tangle of corruption, will also spend a fortune in their defense, with the consequences of winning an easy exit from their quagmire, and at the same time manage their image, creating a narrative in which they appear as innocent victims in the conspiracy. It never fails.

For now, this whole situation has made my niece reflect even more. A tireless reader and reviser, for whom the exchange of readings and ideas is her “daily bread,” she sustains herself knowing that one has to keep moving forward, doing everything possible to continue with her education, “facing all types of obstacles”(and they tell us that we don’t deserve to be here)”just so that rich and well-connected families” can buy their children’s way into university.

That, she adds, hurts her “because in the case of Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade, she never even wanted to attend college, she just wanted to make YouTube videos.” Her conclusion is overwhelming: “If those parents are doing what they could so that their children can move forward, why do they judge parents who immigrate to the United States so that their children can also progress?”

I had mentioned to her a little bit ago, after she gave me the novel Remains of the Day by the Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro, that advancing through “mud” had been a constant in the survival of the human species. In all of history. And that it’s up to us, supported by our reading andreflections as immigrants, to keep on advancing through the mud as far as possible, with integrity and honor, and bearing witnesses to the fact that in the privileged world of money that is used to corrupt and not to resolve human needs, all the places are already occupied.

It’s up to us, tomorrow, to continue on with our own routine: that of effort and that of history.