July 7, 2011
Times are tough. You can’t escape the news. The economy is in crisis. There’s high unemployment. Homes are foreclosing. Budget cuts and massive layoffs across the states. The list goes on. And when things get tough our political leaders fuel our angst and dissatisfaction by helping us look for someone to blame. The nation’s new bogey man: the illegal immigrant. Mind you, I’m not saying that we don’t have an illegal immigration problem, but solving the problem by pitting neighbor against neighbor, doctor against patient, and now teacher against the student is where things get prickly and unsavory. Just recently, an award-winning journalist revealed he’s an illegal immigrant owing his academic success to his teachers who helped keep his secret throughout the years.
As educators, we face a conundrum. On the one hand we are reminded by Federal authorities that every child is entitled to an education. But on the other hand law enforcement officers and lawmakers in some states want teachers, principals and administrators to help spot illegal immigrants and turn them and their families in. This is what I mean by things getting “unsavory.” We are, after all, educators, and not immigration law enforcers!
Our legislators are dragging their feet on devising a workable and humanitarian solution to this problem, e.g. the “Dream Act” http://dreamact.info/students which would provide the children of illegal immigrants access to further education and/or enlistment in the military. Instead, we are put in the position of turning in the children of illegal immigrants to the authorities which will force more students to drop out or leave school fearing that they would be caught and deported. And rather than finish their education and graduate, these children disappear into the margins of society losing out on the opportunity of completing their education. Not good for the children. Not good for our communities and definitely not good for the country.
Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.