June 1, 2001

Commentary

Graduates Without Hope

By Raoul Lowery Contreras

What are we to do about illegal aliens? If they are Arab princesses smuggled into the country by a U.S. Marine boyfriend, they are allowed to stay to avoid embarrassment for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). At the very moment that the princess was walking across the border into Mexico to finalize a pre-arranged deal to reenter the country legally, 16 Mexicans were dying of thirst in the Arizona desert.

What's wrong with that picture?

Dead bodies strewn across the desert by evil gods, helped by coy-oh-tehs, smugglers who abandoned the 16 without water, are not a pretty picture. Neither is the thought of people so desperate to get to America that they are willing to endanger their very lives. Neither is the thought of those who object to lessening the problem of illegal aliens by passage of a simple, yet thorough, guest worker program.

Let's see - is it true that there are more illegals in the country than previously thought? It appears to be so. If so, can it be that much of the huge productivity increases (and prosperity) of the 90s can be attributed to these millions of hard working people that no one knew were even in the country? Maybe and probably true. Are detractors correct in claiming that illegals have taken away, or stolen, jobs from poor jobless Blacks? There is no data to support this claim.

Are illegal aliens draining the public treasury? There is no data to support this claim that is accurate or based on facts.

Specifically, let's look at how illegal alien children are treated by our system. The unchallenged law of the land (Pyler v. Doe) was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1982. Illegal alien children are here through no fault of their own, the Court stated. They cannot be charged with their father's crime, the Court stated. These children are "persons" as stated in the Constitution's 14th Amendment and, thus, cannot be discriminated against by virtue of whether or not they are in the country legally. These children, then, can go to school from kindergarten through high school graduation.

But, what happens when they graduate?

California has passed laws prohibiting these kids from attending state public colleges paying resident tuition rates. One must keep in mind that if a kid graduates from high school and attended California schools for years, some for their entire lives, they always were considered "residents" as defined by the California Constitution. That is, if you lived in California for a calendar year, you were a "resident" for tuition purposes. That was changed in order to deem any such youngsters as "non-residents" so that they must pay "non-resident" tuition which is usually three or four times resident tuition.

Texas thwarted such deviousness by simply passing a law that Mexican nationals could attend Texas public colleges by paying resident tuition even if they actually lived in Mexico.

Enter Democratic Congressman Howard Berman from Los Angeles. He has introduced a bill into Congress that would define "resident" for college tuition purposes as anyone who graduates from high school in the United States and can prove that he or she attended school for the previous four years, for a total of five consecutive years. This is a good bill and deserves support of all who relish education and support kids who want education.

Let's look at the logic of the bill. If a kid is in the country for five years before he or she graduates from high school, are they any different than their schoolmates who were born here and graduate in the same class? No. The difference is but one little piece of paper, a birth certificate. For example, is this illegal alien kid a taxpayer? Yes. Are his parents taxpayers? Yes. Are they residents, parents and kids, of California? Yes. Are they "legal" residents? No. If they are taxpayers and live in California aren't they plain and simple residents? Yes. Thus, they should pay exactly what "legal residents" pay, no more, no less.

Their tax dollars help support the public college system, just as mine and the reader's do. To deny these kids who want to attend college equal treatment is illogical and, in fact, criminal. Their parents have mightily toiled to help propel California into the forefront of all states and most countries economically. Their parents have paid every tax the reader pays. Their parents have been insulted and defamed by their critics, even as some lie dead in the Arizona desert.

On the other hand, the princess watches her story in a made-for-television movie, gets her "green card" despite breaking dozens of immigration laws and her smuggler husband got a "Do not go to jail card" from the Marine Corps. Any other Marine would spend years in jail for what this young man did, but then what would Hollywood do with that story?

The former Marine and former princess will live happily ever after in Las Vegas just north of were Mexicans die coming to America - like the princess, illegally.

Contreras is a freelance writer. He can be reached at: sdraoul@postoffice.pacbell.net

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