Not long ago, Everyday Citizen (http://www.everydaycitizen.com/) posted something I had written about immigrants and the DREAM Act.
A reader responded with a comment that reminded me of the power, poison and persistence of popular stereotypes in promoting hate and inaccurate information. I'll stretch a bit and give the person who posted the comment every benefit of all my doubts and just assume that he/she doesn't know anyone from Mexico.
But, I need to respond to part of the description because of the negative impact of such wrongheaded mythology.
The reader wrote, "The majority of illegal aliens in this country are from Mexico and they know exactly what they are doing. For them, America is the land of the free - health care, welfare, food stamps, no taxes on their income . . . ."
Nothing is free. The immigrants in question have been encouraged to come here by employers who pay them wages below market to benefit company bottom lines and consumers like me. Undocumented immigrants don't qualify for TANF, food stamps or Medicaid. And, they do pay taxes--some even pay taxes on their earned income. The Social Security Administration collects contributions on bogus Social Security numbers annually in an amount equal to about 10% of the entire Social Security reserve fund. These workers pay sales taxes on every purchase they make. As is true for all renters, monthly rent checks allow property owners to pay taxes. True, workers can go to Texas emergency rooms when in a health emergency, but we would be better served if they were free to take advantage of the public health system in terms of cost savings.
The reader wrote, ". . .wouldn't all Americans love to have that kind of world." The most regressive parts of our tax laws affect the poorest among us, including immigrants, many of whom pay a higher percentage of their overall incomes than do many of us who are doing much better financially.
The reader wrote, "And as far as educating them, we have bent over backwards and held our own children back because of their refusal to learn English."
Again, the investment we have made in the education of the children of undocumented immigrants will not be lost, unless we decide to deport them all to a country they've never known. Today in Dallas, bi-lingual employees are needed in every sector of our economy. Why divest our nation of these valuable assets?
As far as "holding our children back," I find that laughable. My daughters are teachers in public schools. One is certified in special education. The other is an elementary teacher with bi-lingual education credentials. She would not agree with your assessment of the impact of immigrant children on "our own children." She is amazed at how fast the children of immigrants learn English.
I am wondering why we don't take advantage of the presence of so many Spanish speaking students to help the English only students master this second language? Could the answer be discovered in the very important, if misguided, distinction the reader makes between "our own children" and theirs? If that is the case, is education really the issue with this reader? I doubt it.
Our fears are foolish, shortsighted and limiting. I pray we wake up to our own folly.