We Must Educate the Children of Illegal Immigrants

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Immigration laws have been a subject of debate throughout American history, especially in states such as California and Texas, where immigrant populations are high. Recently, some citizens have been questioning whether we should continue to educate the children of illegal immigrants. While this issue is steeped in emotional controversy, we must not allow divisive "us against them" rhetoric to cloud our thinking. Yes, educating undocumented immigrants costs us, but not educating them would cost us much more.

Those who propose barring the children of illegal immigrants from our schools have understandable worries. They worry that their state taxes will rise as undocumented children crowd their school systems. They worry about the crowding itself, given the loss of quality education that comes with large class sizes. They worry that school resources will be deflected from their children because of the linguistic and social problems that many of the newcomers face. And finally, they worry that even more illegal immigrants will cross our borders because of the lure of free education.

This last worry is probably unfounded. It is unlikely that many parents are crossing the borders solely to educate their children. More likely, they are in desperate need of work, economic opportunity, and possibly political asylum. As Charles Wheeler of the National Immigration Law Center asserts, "There is no evidence that access to federal programs acts as a magnet to foreigners or that further restrictions would discourage illegal immigrants" (qtd. in "Exploiting").

The other concerns are more legitimate, but they can be addressed by less drastic measures than barring children from schools. Currently the responsibility o...

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...re in school, we can make sure they are inoculated properly, and we can teach them the facts about health and disease.

Do we really want thousands of uneducated children growing up on the streets, where we have little control over them? Surely not. The lure of the streets is powerful enough already. Only by inviting all children into safe and nurturing and intellectually engaging schools can we combat that power. Our efforts will be well worth the cost.

Works Cited

Edmondson, Brad. "Life without Illegal Immigrants." American Demographics May 1996: 1.

"Exploiting Fears." Admissions Decisions: Should Immigration Be Restricted?

7 Oct. 1996. Public Agenda. 10 Feb. 1999. http://www.vote-smart.org/issues/Immigration/chap2/imm2itx.html.

McCarthy, Martha M. "Immigrants in Public Schools: Legal Issues." Educational Horizons 71 (1993): 128-30.

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