Alright. This will probably be my most political post ever. Although my intention is not to get into an argument about who is better or best, if Democrats or Republicans. Everybody has their reasons to vote one way or the other and although I do have my own political perspective I will not try to convince you one way or the other. All I know, is that some things gotta change and what I am about to share with you is one of them.
Needless to say if you have been reading my posts, you know that I am in the teaching business. By now, after 16 years in the profession I have helped many students and their families, most of them immigrants. Sometimes these families may or not have a legal immigration status but this doesn’t mean that their kids can’t go to school and receive an education. Sometimes the family may not have a legal status but the kids are U.S. born, which makes them U.S. citizens by “Jus Soil,” which grants automatic citizenship and right to the land where one is born.
I know. This is controversial. But that is the law. I don’t make the rules. Many people would call this BS and would agree to deny the right to citizenship to these kids. The counterpart of “jus soil” would be “jus sanguinis” which establishes the right to citizenship based on the citizenship of the parents.
Some people would argue that welcoming immigrants is a core value and part of the foundation of the United States.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Statue of Liberty poem by Emma Lazarus
Regardless of immigration status the one thing I see in immigrants coming to the United States is a tremendous drive to push their kids to give them opportunities that otherwise they would not have had in their home country. They are very hard working people, resilient, and always living with their glass half full despite of inhabiting in the shadows, as cogs of the economic system.
These illegal immigrants that many times get blamed for the bad and the worse are also an important contribution to the economy.
Disclaimer before you stop reading: I am not advocating for open borders and letting everybody into our schools, using our social programs and living on welfare, yada, yada, yada. However, I do want to ask you to put yourself in the shoes of one of these families who lives surrounded by the lack of opportunities, basic needs such as food and water. Many times harassed by gangs, drug cartels, threatened with rape and death. Ask yourself if you wouldn’t do whatever it takes to get your family to a better place if you were in that situation? I would. I would do whatever it is necessary to keep my family safe and to provide for them. There are situations when the line between what is legal or not gets blurred by the need of survival.
If you feel entitled to a better life than others just because you were born in a privileged country, ask yourself what have you done to deserve better than others? Has your contribution or your family’s been such that it has made your country what it is today? Has your contribution to your country been that invaluable that otherwise it would not be what it is without it? Most likely the response to this is a flat NO. Most people’s contribution to society doesn’t go beyond holding a 9-5 job, paying taxes, social security and spending money; which is not much different than what Illegal immigrants do as well.
A vicious cycle
This might be as much of a surprise to you as it is for me, but many people do not know that besides doing the jobs that nobody wants to do for cheaper, illegal immigrants also contribute towards the economy. Not only by paying taxes but also contributing to social security.
Let me explain. Once someone overstays a visa or crosses the border illegally the firs thing the will need to get a job is a social security number. Since you can’t get one unless you have a legal resident status most people use one that doesn’t belong to them. Once they are hired by any company, with each paycheck federal and state taxes will be withheld as well as contributions to social security; without hope of any benefits in the future.
If the individual chooses to work for cash most likely than not this person will report income every year through an individual tax identification number, also known as ITIN number. Why? Because there is always the hope that an opportunity for naturalizing or gaining residency might come and people fear that paying taxes every year will be a requirement to be eligible.
Can we straighten things up?
The one thing that both political parties agree upon is the need for immigration reform. The question is not if we will have immigration reform but rather, how would that look like? Are we talking about deporting more than eleven million people after repossessing their assets in a holocaust-look-alike situation? Or are we talking about granting a citizenship path to everybody without any vetting, forgetting about all the other thousands of people waiting in line for a visa number? How about those children who came to the country at a very early age, who don’t even speak their parents’ native language and think of the United States as the only country they know as home?
Can the economy bare deporting such a large group of people without any consequences? According to pundits this would be a strong wind blow to a dwindling system already dancing on a tight rope.
If all undocumented immigrants were deported today, next year’s Social Security trust funds would have approximately $13 billion less for benefit payouts. It’s a considerable loss of dollars, especially when it’s projected that the Social Security funds will be depleted by 2034.
According to New American Economy, undocumented immigrants contributed $13 billion into the Social Security funds in 2016 and $3 billion to Medicare. Three years prior, the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, Stephen Goss, wrote a report that estimated undocumented immigrants contributed $12 billion into Social Security.”
In other words these people work all their lives in a low paying job, they are allowed to put money into the system, they live in the shadows of a fake identity but they can’t ever receive any benefit as far as retirement is concerned.
You may say though, that they use social programs, “drain the system,” etc. However, you can’t receive any social program benefit unless you have a legal status that can be proved. No Medicaid, Medicare or ACA. I know this from personal experience. You may receive donations from organizations that focus on helping immigrants but not from the government. On the other hand, if there are children who have been born in the U.S. to parents with illegal status, the children are eligible to receive services because they are considered American citizens by “jus soli”. I am sorry, I don’t make the rules. I know what you might be thinking!
The system is broken
I am sure you have heard that before, but just because it’s broken doesn’t mean that nothing can be done. Many people think that the problem is a matter of choice by saying ” well, illegals just don’t want to nationalize.” That is not true. You just can’t go to the closest immigration office and say ” I want to be a citizen” and done; you are on your way.
To be a citizen of the United States there are really few options besides being born in the country. You can be granted residency if you are transferred or hired by a company in the states. Also if you are an investor with 500K to a 1M to invest in the country you can be granted the so called green card (No green anymore). If you have any special talent, like playing baseball professionally (of course) may grant you residency.
Other than that, getting married to an American citizen (my case) or being petitioned by a family member could also help you. However, petitions for family members may take 14 years or more depending on the country of origin.
In the meantime, political parties and politicians reach for visceral feelings pandering to their respective bases trying to fork up votes in the next election and nothing really gets done.
A true story
Recently I received an email from a former student asking me for observation hours, which is a common practice in education. After realizing that I am so old now that my students are becoming adults I gladly accepted by letting her know she was welcome at any time.
After many conversations about education I remembered that she had come to the U.S. as a third grader without a lick of English. I remembered that during a writing exercise I had to basically stop to hear the account of this kid describing her crossing through the border. She described how her family had been brought to the border by some men and how they had to run and hide. Later, they had to spend sometime hiding in the basement of a house with other people until someone picked them up. She retold this story in a mix of fears and emotions as if it was some sort of scary but fun adventure she and her family survived. Almost as if it was a clip of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful.
Now she is a confident 19 year old, totally fluent in English, full of dreams and ambitions. She is attending college and is passionate about making a difference and working with kids. Unfortunately, even when she has been living in the states most of her life she is still considered an illegal immigrant, which will decimate her chances of getting hired by any school district.
Should she continue on the path to become a teacher in hopes that an opportunity for naturalization will come her way from the political arena? Or maybe she will fall in love with an American citizen that will grant her legal status? Or should she choose a different career path that will allow her to work in any part of the world, such as computer science, web design, accounting, engineering, etc?
Could you imagine the feeling of a 19 year old that has done everything right to achieve and chase the American dream being told “F*** you! You don’t belong here, it doesn’t matter how hard you try you will never get a chance in the country you call home!”
These are the kids that we have invested in and prepared to join our workforce. Why have we granted a K-12 education to all these kids if they are destined to live in the outskirts of prosperity?
I don’t think the solution is that complicated but I highly doubt that any politician will do what is needed fearing consequences in the polls.
I think it is fair to realize that perpetuating illegal immigration can’t be part of the solution. Keeping people down and living in the shadows contributing to a broken system is not fair to anybody.
I also think that deporting 11 million people will carry a financial and moral consequence that we are not willing to deal with; at least most of the population.
At this point, I think the only solution is to offer a path to citizenship to those who are already here, following the necessary vetting process to ensure our communities’ safety.
Also, some sort of linking between social security numbers and local state IDs should help tremendously to prevent identity theft. No more people using somebody else’s number.
I think it is fair for schools and other institutions to demand documentation that shows a law abiding status. Most countries do it.
Having more control on illegal immigration will allow to grant more visas to political asylum seekers, the visa lottery program, family members and petitioners backlogged in the immigration system.
It will not be perfect but definitely better than what it is now.
What do you think will be a good idea to fix the immigration system? Feel free to share your thoughts. As long as they are objective they will be well received. I don’t do well with one sided fanatical and tribal thoughts. Keep it real.