Charles Breiterman's picture


  by  Charles Breiterman

Last week, I wrote about a whopper of heartlessness in the New York Times. This time it is a glaring oversight in the Boston Globe, which is owned by the New York Times, so, same source.

Reporter Maria Sacchetti writes of “Alan,” who was brought here at a young age by his parents from Mexico, and graduated this June from Harvard with a B average. The title of the article is “Illegal status gives Harvard grad few options.” But ironically, due to the Harvard alumni network, he probably has a few more options than many native-born American college grads in this economy.

The article is part of the series of media pieces that serve to promote the so-called “Dream Act” that would allow taxpayer-subsidized college tuition and a relatively easy path to legal status for people brought here illegally before the age of 16. It could be utilized by people up to 35 years of age. NumbersUSA has pointed out that the "Dream Act" is actually a wide-reaching amnesty.

Alan did not know that he was here illegally until high school, when he wanted to apply for a job. He brought applications home to fill out and asked, “Mom, what’s a Social Security number?’’ “With his teacher’s help, Alan filled out college applications. When Harvard accepted him on scholarship, they were thrilled. They thought the Dream Act would have passed by now.

The article attempts to make the point that despite having graduated from Harvard, “Alan” is now in the lamentable situation of being unable to find work legally in the United States.

But now Alan has hit a dead end, because one night 19 years ago his mother led him across the Mexican border into California, making him an illegal immigrant.

His only legal employment option as a college graduate now is to return to Mexico, where he has few contacts and fewer prospects.

Now Alan sees Mexico as his only option. His mother is against it: Alan barely knows his relatives there, and he has no professional connections. It is unclear whether Mexico’s elite would welcome him, even if he is a Harvard man.

"I don’t want to go home and sit on my butt and watch SportsCenter. If I do that, then these last four years have been a waste."

An online source indicates that the reporter is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and the University of Texas. Has she ever heard of using the alumni network?

As of 2005, 1,174 people holding a degree from Harvard were living in Mexico, according to a Harvard staff member. The Harvard Business School alumni directory lists 357 names for Mexico. Harvard also has graduate schools of law, government, education, dentistry, public health, and more. In a phone converstation, a staffer from the alumni office characterized Harvard's Mexican alumni as "a very strong group ... very impressive ... well-organized ... well-placed."

The current and former presidents of Mexico both have Harvard degrees.

In 2005, Harvard held an alumni “convocation” in Mexico city that was attended by then-President Vincente Fox, with numerous well-placed Harvard graduates and Harvard-affiliated people. An impressive publication describing the meeting is available online.

The following were some of the attendees, with descriptions. Armondo Santacruz, (Harvard MBA 1987) is President of the Harvard Club of Mexico, and he is cofounder of Grupo Pochteca, S.A. de C.V., one of the leading paper and board merchants and converters in Mexico. He is also a founding member and Treasurer of México Unido Contra la Delincuencia, A.C., a nongovernmental organization whose mission is to help reduce crime and increase the government’s effectiveness in providing security through citizens’ participation. If Alan can meet Mr. Santacruz, maybe he can get an entry-level job university administration, the private sector, or the non-profit sector. Other attendees included: Miguel Angel Dávila Guzman, Cofounder and President of Cinemex (Harvard MBA 1993); José Woldenberg Karakowsky, President of the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute and visiting professor at Harvard since 1996; Jaime Sepulveda, Director of the National Institutes of Health of Mexico; Former Dean of the School of Public Health of Mexico, Member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers; Felicia Marie Knaul,of the Mexican Ministry of Education and the Mexican Health Foundation (Ph.D. Economics Harvard); Gerardo Esquivel, Professor of Economics at El Colegio de México (Ph.D. Economics Harvard ), who participated in a useful workshop titled, “Why Isn’t The Latin American Economy Growing?”

The publication also lists the following Mexican Harvard alums who helped out with the convocation:

Fernando Solís Cámara MPP ’84
Alfredo Castellanos MBA ’99
Roberto Charvel MBA ’01
Salomón Chertorivski MPP ’01
Martín Lajous SM ’04
Alejandro Poiré AM ’99, PhD ’02
Gabriela Ramos MPP ’95
Andres Roemer MPA ’91
Gabriela Rojas LLM ’98, MPA ’01
Armando Santacruz MBA ’87
Antonio Vivanco MBA ’00, MPA ’00

There are grounds to believe that Alan will be able to get a job in Mexico by using the Harvard alumni network. Alan has many opportunities and options if he returns to a place where he can work legally.

Further, I would urge Alan to “hold their feet to the fire” by holding the Harvard administration accountable to their stated intentions for the Harvard alumni network:

Besides the Global Series, the Harvard Alumni Association is working closely with Harvard Clubs and graduates in various parts of the world to increase alumni participation ... We envision international Clubs taking an increasingly active role in ensuring meaningful experiences for students while they are studying abroad, and in helping to support graduates once they begin to make the professional connections that are so critical to a vibrant alumni community. Now, more than ever, Harvard Clubs will play a strategic role in developing a truly global alumni network.

Those words were spoken by James R. Ullyot (Harvard AB ’62, MBA ’66), and President, Harvard Alumni Association 2004-2005, at the 2005 “convocation” event at the Harvard Club of Mexico City. I suggest that Alan approach the Harvard Alumni Association about help connecting with Harvard Alums in Mexico. Alan would not be asking them to get him a job, merely to facilitate making connections, and it would be up to Alan to land a job. Alan will need to be charming, persistent, and patient as he uses the alumni network. Most of the people he will talk to already have jobs and will be in no particular hurry to help him get a job. He may have to wait a month just to get a chance to talk to a particular key person. But such is the case with any job search, whether it be in the United States or in Mexico.

Alan will be an asset to Mexico. First, he has a superb education from the United States. Second, since he has spent so much time here, he may realize that it is not acceptable for the Mexican elites to refuse to make the reforms necessary to improve their country. Third, he may have some unique insights into what Mexico needs to do. We need even more people like Alan to return to Mexico so that there is a critical mass of people who can push change.

Illegal Immigration

Updated: Thu, Aug 20th 2009 @ 2:51pm EDT

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