Watson Chronicle

WATSON COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

Student Opportunities and Student News

Writer Paul Cuadros Shares Insights on Immigration

Friday, May 02, 2014

Paul Cuadros, an investigative reporter, associate professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and author of the book, A Home on the Field, visited the Watson College of Education April 24 to discuss Latino immigration and the rapidly changing demographic make-up of student populations at schools in North Carolina. More than 150 faculty members and students attended the event hosted by the Office of Teacher Education and Outreach and UNCW’s Centro Hispano.

Latinos now number more than 50 million in the U.S.; making up 16.3% of the total population and 24% of the population under age 20, Cuadros said. Many live in the South.

Cuadros shared his personal experiences as a high school soccer coach in the small agricultural town of Siler City, North Carolina. There, the student body at Jordon-Matthews High School has grown from 1% Latino in 1990 to 76% today.

A Home on the Field tells the story of Siler City as it copes and struggles with Latino immigration through the lives of a predominantly Latino high school soccer team. Cuadros created the team in 2002, and his players went on to win the North Carolina state championship in just three seasons.

Everardo Morales, a member of the championship team, joined Cuadros at the WCE event.  After graduating from high school, Morales went on to earn an associate’s degree from Cape Fear Community College and a bachelor’s degree from UNCW. Sadly, Morales is an exception. Although many of his teammates were excellent students with high potential, they faced obstacles including ineligibility for instate tuition because they were undocumented immigrants.

Cuadros called U.S. public policy for undocumented immigrants “schizophrenic,” and he works hard to help members of the immigrant community in central North Carolina receive opportunities needed to succeed. He said many Latinos are here because employers in the food processing industry advertised for workers and transported them over the border.  Once they arrive, residents in places like Siler City tolerate the workers but aren’t welcoming to their children who attend local schools, he said. Cuadros created the soccer team to help the students assimilate, learn discipline and to have an incentive to stay in school. It worked, he said, until the students graduated and encountered roadblocks to college and careers.

Cuadros still coaches soccer in Siler. Many things have changed since 2002 when he created the first team. Then, most players were newcomers to the country and English language learners. Now, most are settlers, who were born in the U.S., are fluent in both Spanish and English and aspire to college. Asked if residents in the town are now more accepting of the Latinos, Cuadros compared the process to the stages of grief. He said there is still anger to work through before some arrive at the final stage of acceptance. Still, Cuadros has high hopes for his players who will face fewer public policy obstacles - and have far greater opportunities for the future - as fluent English speakers and American citizens.

A Home on the Field is the topic of a documentary film currently in production by Jennifer Lopez. Cuadros and his team have their own reality show called “Los Jets.”

Cuadros is currently an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He continues to write about immigration and the Latino community.