Voting against in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants ruins both young people and America

July 13, 2011

I was disappointed to read "In-state tuition opponents have the signatures for referendum" (July 8). Maryland's new law would have extended in-state tuition rates to young, undocumented residents, but now the law has been blocked, and it will await the decision of the voters in November 2012.

I am frustrated at how this issue has been framed by The Sun. The Sun has repeatedly referred to the beneficiaries of this new law as "illegal immigrants." It is more accurate to call them children of Maryland residents who lack official citizenship documents.

As an teacher of English for speakers of another language (ESOL), I appreciate how many hurdles there are for a young immigrant. They have adjust to a new culture, learn English and take on additional responsibilities (such as translating for their parents), all while trying to complete their schoolwork. For those ESOL students who can actually jump those hurdles, graduate and get accepted to college, it is an enormous accomplishment. They must be extremely well motivated, bright and capable. Then, to deny them access to college because the rates are too expensive is more than unfair; it's waste of a valuable resource. And it's bad policy.

Let's be very clear. These kids want to be Americans. If they lack documents, it's not their fault. They didn't choose to come here illegally. Their parents did.

Furthermore, we need to start telling the full story about illegal immigration. Global trade policies, such as NAFTA, have been disastrous for workers and peasant farmers all over the world. As long as these economic insecurities exist, workers will migrate in search of income. Parents will do whatever it takes to make life livable for their families. Even if we make it less convenient for them, people are still going to cross that border illegally because they want to feed their families. We allow major corporations to move capital freely across borders. Why don't the workers have the same right?

In summary, we should not waste the most valuable resource that we have: smart, dedicated young people who want to contribute to America. I truly hope that all of those enthusiastic petition signers will carefully reconsider their choices next November. By voting against the in-state tuition law, you are not only destroying a young person's future, you are destroying America.

Vince Tola, Baltimore

The writer is a public school English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher.

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