Immigration, Sports, and Resistance: An Interview with Carlos Borja
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They knew that you’ll have more success if you’re a team than if you’re an individual. That guy that wins the division, nobody knows about him. But, everybody knows the school that wins. We said, “We’re going to become the school that wins.” At practices, none of them backed off. Often you go to practices and the No. 1 runner is way out there. Your No. 4 or 5 are wherever. That’s not a team. It’s not a family.
A lot of teams are starting that same philosophy. But if your kids cannot see themselves as a family, it’s never going to happen. Those teams that have 70 kids, are they ever going to have a little family gathering on Friday night? No way, there’s too many of them. But I can coach seven or eight kids. Four of those kids were always in my house. They’d walk in like it’s their house: “Hey coach, good morning.” We became a family. That’s something that I learned from my coach. If you want to succeed, you want to become a family.
Ochoa: Why is building a family so important for the work that you do?
Borja: You know the cliché: “Nobody gets left be-hind.” Families are so strong. So many things happen within families, and they’re still a family. Normally, even rumors can destroy a team—little stuff like that. Rumors make families upset and you may not talk to a family member for a couple of days, a month, but you’re still family. They’ll still come together. We have team dinners. This is where we’ll talk. We don’t have to talk about running. We’ll talk about what’s going on in their lives, how are they doing. I will learn a little bit more about their own families. The same thing happens in my classroom. I try to build a sense of family because I think it’s important to have a place where you belong and where you’re wanted.
‘Families Are Running Scared’
Ochoa: How is the political climate in Arizona and the passing of anti-immigrant legislation like SB 1070 impacting the students and their communities?
Borja: The whole immigration status is really hurting a lot of them. When I went to college, I just got a student ID number. Now, these kids need a Social Security number. That’s keeping a lot of the kids who are very qualified and could be very successful here in the United States from getting a college education. Not only that, but we have so many people just living in fear. People are moving to different states, and families are also moving back across the border.
Families are running scared. Kids are leaving in the middle of the school year. I had three families that left because their parents were deported.
All of my senior cross-country runners got scholarship offers, but because they’re not all legal they didn’t get full scholarships. Only the ones who got full scholarships are going on to college. Next year the cost of junior college is going from $96 a credit hour to $317 a credit hour [because Arizona Proposition 300 requires undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition]. These kids can’t afford that.
So, that’s where we find ourselves. Hopefully, things will change. Everybody’s waiting for the Dream Act to go through. We talk about it—especially the high school kids. Everybody’s waiting because they’re seeing themselves at the end of the road: “This is it for me. If nothing goes through, I’ve got to go back.” At least in 8th grade, they think, “OK, I have four years. I can wait four years before I can become legal.” Everybody’s waiting for Obama to sign something.