I didn’t create this blog with the intention of waxing political on a regular basis, but not only does this topic pertain to education, I find it to be much more of a humanitarian issue than a political one. I came across a video on my Facebook news feed this afternoon labeled, “Why honor students across the country are being thrown in jail.”

This video isn’t necessarily groundbreaking – similar stories can be found here, there, and everywhere – but in the wake of the Obama administration’s plan to ease the deportation regulations for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were children, the plight of undocumented teens has become a hot-button issue.

Robinson had a fairly large Latino population when I taught there; I don’t know with certainty which ones and how many, but I’m positive that a significant chunk of the ones I taught were undocumented immigrants. And do you know why I don’t know which ones were undocumented and which ones weren’t? Because they were no different from any other cross-section of the student body that I taught – there were great students and not-so-great students, kids that were proverbial Boy Scouts and kids who couldn’t behave, kids with wonderful parents and kids with difficult parents, and everything in between. In many ways, education can be the great equalizer – having a Social Security number doesn’t make a kid a better student than one of his peers who doesn’t.

My issue with the desire of some people to deport these kids is primarily twofold.

1) Why would we want to get rid of students who can contribute to society? The story I linked above of the girl in Miami who was the valedictorian of her high school class but was still facing deportation (her picture heads this post) is a prime example of what I mean. That girl could end up curing cancer and we’re going to put her on a plane because her parents brought her to the United States when she was a child? That dog won’t hunt, and that brings me to the second point…

2) For no other crime in our society is a child punished because their parents broke the law. A Texas congressman said today that these kids aren’t blameless because they probably “had a say” in coming to the U.S. With all due respect to all the stupid things I’ve heard, this one is up there. If I, as a 16-year-old, had sat down to the dinner table and told my parents, “You know, life here sucks; let’s move to Sweden!,” I have a hard time believing that would’ve clinched the decision. And when I have kids, I know I won’t be taking the opinion of my toddler into much account when making decisions for my family.

I’ve heard the arguments that such students are not American, and therefore don’t deserve the benefits of American citizenship. Well, in the strictest legal sense, that may be true. But a person who was brought to the United States when he or she was 2 years old and knows no other way of life is an American. And if they are willing to be law-abiding people, attend school, and contribute to society, I have no problem whatsoever with my tax dollars supporting their educational endeavors. As a teacher, a student’s immigration status has no bearing at all on my expectations for them, and I hope that all teachers take a similar approach.

I have no idea whether my views are mainstream or represent what some would consider a “radical minority,” but I make no apologies for my opinion on this matter. I’m prepared for some blowback, but would be curious to know how others feel.

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