Not embracing exclusionary policies

Opponents of the law must understand that educating immigrants is good for everyone.

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore ” And then run?
Langston Hughes

The recent responses to the Nov. 10 Daily article “Group rallies to help immigrant students” about students organizing to promote the passage of the Dream Act are myopic and ahistorical at best. Opponents of the law would do well to remember that in this era of globalization and shifting populations, the world is at our doorsteps. How can we engage the world if we cannot even recognize those surrounding us as our neighbors and see them with a compassion that acknowledges that our well-being is tied to theirs?

In an era of shrinking resources that requires establishing a clear hierarchy of needs, it is all too easy to point the finger at “others” and blame them for draining resources and taking advantage of undeserved privileges. Is it necessary for one class of people to feel more secure about their social position by limiting the intellectual, social and economic development of others? It is neither smart nor strategically beneficial to narrow avenues of educational opportunity for talented students.

We need not embrace exclusionary policies in order to protect our privileges. Instead, to be forward looking, we must realize that we can better cultivate talent, superior intellect, a spirit of competitiveness and creativity if we promote opportunities for all to reach their potential. In denying in-state tuition benefits to undocumented immigrants, some may feel they are protecting the educational benefits of in-state tuition earned by legal citizens. But in adopting this stance, they exploit an underlying xenophobia that heightens the distinction between the “haves and have-nots” of citizenship in order to divert attention from the real source of economic woes ” national polices that have drained state support of education.

Proponents conveniently ignore the fact that the proposed law would only apply to those students who graduated from and attended a Minnesota high school for at least three years. Distortions from biased organizations like Federation for American Immigration Reform aside, the data shows that immigrant families contribute to state coffers in numerous ways. Moreover, any portion of this relatively small population of eligible high school students that achieves a higher education will be a much larger contributor to the state when they earn a degree. If we deny them the opportunity to succeed in higher education, what incentive do they have to succeed or even to continue with their secondary education? It’s strange how the principles of meritocracy seem to disappear like dust in the wind when you can dehumanize a population by labeling them illegal ” as if that’s possible. People may commit illegal acts, but it is simply politically expedience to deny them their humanity wholesale. In most cases, these youths are here because their families exercised a fundamental human right to relocate for survival.

Moreover, they are here because we were there. Legal and extralegal immigration patterns from Latin America are a direct result of U.S. foreign policies of the past century and a half. This may not be common knowledge, but it’s not difficult to discern for those who truly want to know. To be sure, a university education benefits the individual, but education is unquestionably a public good that benefits society as a whole by raising the quality of the work force. The failure to educate high-ability students will result in a missed opportunity for our economy. Demographic predictions reveal that the nation will increasingly rely on students of color to meet social and workforce needs. Numerous industries already rely heavily on undocumented workers.

It is not only fair, but also just that we do away with barriers that prohibit talented youth from developing and contributing to society.

Louis Mendoza is the Chicano studies chairman. Please send comments to [email protected]