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And it is seriously disturbing when even a channel like PBS paints the issue as such.
See the latest video on a discussion between undocumented students and concerned citizens about college tuition for "illegal immigrants."(Originally produced and telecasted by PBS on 4/7/2008)
To begin with, college education is depicted as a piece of pie, accessible only to some. Then, the "illegal immigrant" student is painted as stealing or having unfair access to the small piece of pie either by taking a seat from an American citizen or instate-tuition to attend college. Obviously, this angers the working class students who feel like they have to face unfair competition and have less access to student loans and resources.
I am tired of this picture. Education is not a zero-sum game where the "illegal" wins and the "legal" loses. This black and white depiction seriously clouds a more nuanced approach to resolving issues that are plaguing working class America. Why are we fighting to deny some students education when we should instead be claiming the right to education for all? Why are we questioning the desire of undocumented American students to attend college and not the motivation of our Congressperson's support for the morally-repugnant, economy-crippling, reputation-tarnishing illegal war against Iraq?
We need to reframe the debate away from a question of 'tuition' to a matter of sound and reasonable policy-making. What makes more sense? A well-educated workforce that keeps America globally competitive or the creation of an underclass of stateless American youth that waste their talent, and resort to several acts of criminality (i.e. even something like forging documents, stealing SSNs) in order to make a living underground? No one is at loss when the nation commits to spending more on books than bombs (besides Haliburton…).
Every person deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education, regardless of immigration status. If we don't have problems with foreign and international students at our schools who would make no long term investments in our economy (in most cases), then we should have no problem educating the children of "illegal immigrants" who may one day become legal residents and shoulder the burden of paying for the baby boomer's retirement, the war in Iraq and other needless deficits.