The sins of the fathers?

In an essay for Teacher Magazine, my TLN colleague Laura Reasoner Jones recently and bravely wroteJail about a Hispanic student in her class and made the following controversial observations:

To me, Eduardo is the personification of the immigration questions facing my local area and our nation today. He and his family live in a small apartment, and he and his sister qualify for free lunch. But his family cares deeply about his education and his behavior, and they support him in all that he does in school.

I don’t know if they are here in the U.S. legally, and I really don’t care. He is a very intelligent young man who has a bright future, and who has all of the characteristics and values that pundits describe as ‘American.’ He is honest, hardworking, kind, thrifty, and goal-driven. He deserves to get a good education, and he will make a huge contribution to this country.

Of course, her essay has drawn the fire of those who argue that we should not be providing services, such as education, to illegal immigrants since they are lawbreakers. Well, if that’s the case, why do we teach the children of felons here? If someone decides to commit murder, rape, or robbery, why don’t we insist that his/her children be removed from the public schools?

Why?

Because it’s inhumane and unjust to punish children for what their parents have done.

There are several groups that have been involved in creating the illegal immigrant problem in this country; but the children are not among them. Many are calling for the government to round up the over 25 million people who don’t want to leave and deport them. To which I respond: “Don’t hold your breath.” (Are we talking about the same federal government that couldn’t get those people who wanted to leave the coast out before Katrina and still has many of the survivors in toxic trailers?)

While we sort out the mess that’s been created, why punish the children by withholding the things that could turn them into productive citizens?  True, our resources are limited and stretched (due in part to our inverted priorities), but one way to address that problem is to create more hardworking, taxpaying, intelligent voters.

Like Laura, I’ve taught some amazing Hispanic students who may very well have been brought here illegally. But they might also make marvelous doctors, nurses, engineers, etc. if given the opportunity and the choice to become citizens.