Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An Overhaul of Immigration Policy

There may be nothing that touches people's nerves more than immigration, and the loaded context in which the word is used and the images it draws up to certain people. It is also true that when one thinks of "immigration," one thinks of Latin Americans.

Old Dominion is one of four of Virginia's 15 universities who will enroll undocumented immigrants, according to the Virginian-Pilot. One only needs to scroll past the usual arguments for and against immigration reform to find the nerves for which I spoke of above. Just one look, even glance, at the hatred displayed in the comments shows the nature of how immigration, and immigrants, are received in this country. Law and order are often used as a guise for blatant racism.

It is often refreshing to move beyond the Eurocentric fallacies and it is in the human element where immigration takes it true form. According to a great article on the blog Immigration, Education and Globalization, "Dead-Ends and Deportation for America's Youth 2 Million Reasons to Find a Solution," Dr. Angela Valenzuela uses two examples of immigration in the US where losing these undocumented workers could be detrimental to America.

* Santiago Cordero graduated from Postville High School in Iowa on May 25, 2008. In addition to starting the school's first soccer team, his participation in varsity football and volunteer programs was applauded by the Superintendent. Despite an immigration raid that tore his mother from their family, Cordero graduated in the top ten of his class. But because Santiago is undocumented, he faces an uncertain future ("Raid mars future for 3 graduating today from Postville," Des Moines Register, May 25, 2008).

* Laura just graduated from high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a 4.0 grade point average and dreams of becoming an engineer. But then she learned that Central Piedmont Community College, which she planned to attend for two years before switching to a four-year college, is no longer admitting undocumented students such as herself. Now Laura's plans for college and a career are in limbo ("Yearning to learn, but rule says no," Charlotte Observer, June 17, 2008).

As lawmakers keep trying to "deport their way out" of a dysfunctional immigration system that has fueled a growing undocumented population, they would do well to consider the cases of ... Santiago, Laura, and approximately 1.8 million others, whose deportation would be traumatic not only for the students themselves, but for the American workforce as a whole.

Of course, according to Valenzuela, America will lose potential that these kids bring to our society; lost tax dollars from children who want to be educated in America; and lost workers who, if they cannot go to school, cannot work for our companies for fear of deportation. Thus, it is the human side of immigration that only hardliners or callous individuals defend.

ODU joins world-class universities like Virginia Tech in accepting students regardless of "status" and instead accepts based up merits. Said Larry Hincker of Virginia Tech, determining their legal status is the responsibility of the U.S. government. "It’s not like these people are coming in from Chihuahua. They’re graduating from good Virginia schools. They have good grades. … You don’t get into Virginia Tech unless you’re a good student.” The same, thankfully, applies for Old Dominion.


  1. Really good points you bring up on this post. Immigration is a delicate issue, but I think you are correct in your observations.

  2. I agree with Martin, this is a great post!