Monday, June 13, 2011

Why Do We Punish Kids? Thoughts on Alabama

Full disclosure here: I am very passionate about immigration. I subscribe to one simple saying, "Ningun ser humano es illegal." This basically translates as "no human is illegal." I have this view for many reasons, but here are two that influence my thoughts more than any. I am Latino and I loathe to see part of my culture being dehumanized. Second, I worked alongside many legal and illegal immigrants as I grew up toiling on fields in the Central Valley. These are good people that take work nobody else will.

Despite this passion, I also concede that all governments have a stake in and the duty to enforce borders. I wish we did this in a humane and compassionate way, but I am not ignorant of the national security issue here. I studied political science in college and understand why this is important. Because of this and also to remain as nuetral as possible, I will not discuss any parts of the Alabama bill except the educational component.

What I do not get is why we punish kids? The new Alabama law has provisions in the bill that encourage administrations to check for the legal status of families. While they cannot limit schooling or funding based on status (it is unconstitutional), lawmakers hope to figure out how much money is spent on educating children of illegal immigrants. My concern is that it will continue to alienate (no pun intended) a very poorly educated group of our population away from the educational system. It will also cause deep-seated resentment and de facto segregation within schools. The brunt of such criticism and unequal treatment is ultimately realized by innocent children. The intimidation of the educational system to the poor will only be expanded and the educational prospects of illegal immigrants will be diminished. I also believe it will have a negative effect on those legal immigrants in school who will now be subject to all sorts of inquiries.

Let's forget the fact that illegal immigrants pay into the systems via purchases made and employment and focus on why do we punish children? Most children have no say as to where their family locates. Think of military families. If you get the order to go, your family often goes. The children have no say in this. They probably want to stay with old friends in their comfortable environment. I don't think immigrant children have drastically different opinions. So why do we punish immigrant children by giving them second-class educations or intimidating them at school? It was not their choice to come here. Furthermore, many of these children will stay in the United States for their whole lives. Having spent my first two years in a school with illegal immigrants, I can attest to the tremendous academic and social potential they bring (as do all children). Having a good education and school system is the right thing to do for the economy and common good.

Also, what we are taking away from is the general worth of a human being, especially that of a child. Giving children the best education possible should be a priority, regardless of their immigrant status, of any enlightened, democratic country. There is no need to punish children for decisions they had no part in. Why do we feel the need to punish children for faults of which are not their own? I am deeply troubled about this.


  1. I'm tired of people's ignorance about the topic of immigration being an excuse for policies such as this being promoted in the name of anything other than what it really is: Racism. If that makes people uncomfortable or angry, good. That's how it should make people feel. It's the next step, and the ones after, that matter. My hope is that more people start taking them. Here's to less hatred and more love.

  2. I am glad that you said what I tippy-toed around. I believe it can be nothing but.

    Here's to less hatred and more love