The story of America as seen and known today has been built by immigrants. In fact, the motto of America is that it is a nation of immigrants. Yet many camps within today's society either look down on or fight against immigration. This is because illegal immigration from Central and Southern American nations have affected the way in which America works, and not always in a positive way. Though these individuals are not the only illegal immigrants in this country, they make up a very large population and, for this reason, many have found ways in which to attack this group of immigrants. Needless to say, this is a very 'hot' issue, and this is one of the reasons why it must be discussed and analyzed from an objective standpoint. One of the one hand, this paper will provide plenty of background information as to the specific issue to be discussed, which is education of illegal immigrant children, and on another hand, it will also provide an argument as to why these children must be educated.
As mentioned above, this paper will focus on the specific issue of education concerning illegal immigrant children, and will aim to argue why, in addition to providing some background information, these children must receive a good education. In order to begin, it must be explained that this paper will only focus on that group mentioned above, as it is quite short in its scope. This group will be comprised of those children emigrating with their parents from Latin American nations. Though other groups deserve begin analyzed, the length of this paper only allows for a specific focus on one group.
The issue of illegal immigration today has led to many different policies, and even some racial hatred. The statistics state that illegal immigration costs the U.S. In the billions of dollars of revenue annually[footnoteRef:1], and claim that there are almost 20 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S.[footnoteRef:2], many of whom are from the group to be discussed here. The reason why some sources claim that these immigrants are costing the economy is because many immigrants, almost 62%, are paid 'under the table,' and therefore do not pay taxes on income, taxes that would go to help the American budget.[footnoteRef:3] [1: Barnes, E. (2010). Illegal Immigration Costs U.S. $113 Billion a Year, Study Finds. Fox News. Retrieved February 4, 2012, from .] [2: N.A. (2012). Illegal Immigration. U.S. Immigration Support. Retrieved February 4, 2012, from . ] [3: N.A. (2012). Illegal Immigration -- Sneaking into the U.S. On the Decline. Illegal Immigration Statistics. Retrieved February 4, 2012, from . ]
The issue in itself, in its entirety, is controversial, and the specific issue of whether the U.S. should pay for illegal immigrants who do not pay taxes, and do so to educate illegal immigrant children, is even more controversial. Many state that, for this reason, immigrant children should not be educated, and they really do not contribute anything to society. But if one does not educate these newly arrived children, how can they assimilate and learn about the society in which they live and how can they contribute before they are even given a chance? Such questions are very important and very heatedly debated.
Debate and Further Discussion
In a recent article published in the New York Times, the issue of education for immigrant children was discussed in a blog format. The questions asked included whether these children should be educated and whether laws against such education are necessary and constitutional. In the wake of an Alabama law, for instance, the article states that "school superintendents and principals across the state confirm that attendance of Hispanic children has dropped noticeably since the word went out that school officials are now required to check the immigration status of newly enrolled students and their parents."[footnoteRef:4] In other words, these children are afraid of being found out as illegal immigrants and deported back to their country, especially since most of them have left their country for a reason. [4: Griffee, S.L. (2011). Are Children of Illegal Immigrants Entitled to a Public Education? New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2012, from . ]
Yet if these children are held back they will develop a hatred for this country and not contribute at all to enriching it. In other words, the questions to be asked are whether children should be punished for the decisions that their parents have made. Some states say yes, others say no, to put it bluntly. Yet those in the yes camp also acknowledge that these individuals, many of whom stay in this country, will continue to live in poverty, ignorance, and will not contribute to eventually assimilating and contributing to growth in the U.S., whether it be political, social, cultural, or otherwise.
The article cited above finds itself in the latter camp, or the 'no' camp or in the 'yes for education' camp, state that the Alabama rule "is part of the law's sweeping attempt to curtail the rights and complicate the lives of people without papers, making them unable to enter contracts, find jobs, rent homes or access government services. In other words, to be isolated, unemployable, poor, defenseless and uneducated."[footnoteRef:5] The author further mentions, [5: Griffee, 2011. ]
"…the education crackdown is particularly senseless and unconstitutional. In 1982, the Supreme Court found that all children living in the United States have the right to a public education, whatever their immigration status. The justices' reasoning was shaped not by compassion but practicality: it does the country no good to perpetuate an uneducated underclass."[footnoteRef:6] [6: Griffee, 2011. ]
This quotation provides not only a social and moral reason for the education of illegal immigrant children, but a constitutional, or judicial reason. It clearly states that it is illegal to keep children, no matter who they are and where they come from, from receiving an education in the United States, especially if this is a public education in a country that promoted freedom above all other rights.
Education for all children is a right in the U.S. As mentioned above, this was acknowledged by the Supreme Court of the United States, specifically in the case of Plyler vs. Doe in 1982. The case summary states,
"The question presented by [the case] is whether, consistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Texas may deny to undocumented school-age children the free public education that it provides to children who are citizens of the United States or legally admitted aliens."[footnoteRef:7] [7: Brennan, J. (1982). Plyler v. Doe. Legal Information Institute. Retrieved February 4, 2012, from . ]
In essence, the Texan law here was aiming to deny rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, which states,
"[n]o State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."[footnoteRef:8] [8: Brennan, 1982. ]
Because of the very wording of this amendment, the Supreme Court struck down the Texas statute that both denied education to illegal immigrant children, and/or asked them to pay tuition to compensate for their political status.
The legal basis is there, and the moral basis for education these children, especially with the goal of improving our country in mind, should all point towards a yes, but many Americans still see it as unfair and many hold the Texas view, presented above. In a 2007 poll, questioning this very issue, the results were as follows:
1. Should children of illegal immigrants be allowed to attend local public schools, or not?
Don't know 6%
Should not 38%
2. Should children born in the United States to parents who are in the…