Last spring, Bill De La Rosa learned he had earned a spot at Oxford University to pursue a master’s degree in migration studies. The only uncertainty he faced was how to afford the hefty bill.
The answer arrived last week when De La Rosa heard he had won a prestigious Marshall Scholarship, which funds graduate study in the UK for up to forty US students each year. The scholarship was created in 1953 to strengthen ties between the two countries.
One of the questions De La Rosa was asked in the extensive application process for the Marshall was how his graduate work at Oxford would contribute to positive relations between the UK and US. He made the case that immigration, the topic he plans to study, is central to recent political upheaval in both of the countries — with Donald Trump’s election here and the Brexit vote there. De La Rosa said he wants to further our understanding of the flow of millions of migrants around the world today and to help solve the problem of how to “put in place better global migration policies that uphold the dignity and rights of people.”
When he begins his studies next fall, De La Rosa, the son of Mexican immigrants, plans to focus on border security and the consequences of our approaches to it. “All across the world we’re seeing the construction of walls, which are fending off people in need of help,” he said.
After wrapping up the one-year master’s program, he wants to pursue a PhD in international development. His ultimate goal is to achieve a position of influence — whether it is in academia, government, or with an NGO — to help establish a more sensible and humane immigration policy in the US, he said.
This year, as part of his Truman scholarship, De La Rosa is working as a policy analyst in Washington DC for the Department of Health and Human Services. While he originally thought he would be mostly spending his time in a cubicle reading briefs, he’s been asked to do field work in Texas for the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
In a couple of weeks, he’ll travel to Fort Bliss, Texas, to be the spokesperson for a recently opened shelter there. The shelter provides temporary housing to thousands of children who have crossed the US-Mexico border without parents or papers. The minors live at the shelter until government officials find adults who can care for them while their immigration cases proceed in court.
Because he’ll be relatively close by, De La Rosa said he plans to visit his father and three siblings in Tucson, Ariz., and also travel to see his mother who is in Mexico. In 2009, she was banished from the US for 10 years. Despite having lived and worked in the US for years, and despite the fact she was raising four children and caring for an ailing husband, Gloria Arellano De La Rosa was punished for overstaying a visa and forced to live apart from her family.
De La Rosa said the Truman scholarship, which supports young people with bright futures in public service, has been instrumental in furthering his mission to help migrants be treated with dignity. “The Marshall will help me advance my cause, too,” he added.
And one more thing he is looking forward to in England — he is planning to invite his mother to his Oxford graduation ceremony to witness, for the first time, her son receive a school diploma.