From this morning’s Wall Street Journal – Illegal Immigrants’ New Lament: Have Degree, No Job:
Suffering from a severe shortage of nurses, U.S. hospitals have recruited thousands of workers from countries such as the Philippines, Jamaica and Mexico. Meanwhile, Julieta Garibay’s nursing degree from a prestigious Texas university isn’t helping her land a job with any hospital. The most she can do is volunteer.
Ms. Garibay, 24 years old, who came to the U.S. as a child, is an illegal immigrant. She is part of an emerging class of young immigrants facing a new quandary: They are educated, but unable to get work because of their immigration status.
Their dilemma promises to be an increasing problem as more illegal immigrants attend U.S. colleges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that all children, regardless of immigration status, are entitled to attend elementary and secondary school for free. But higher education is largely a state matter.
In 2001, Texas became the first state to pass a law allowing undocumented immigrant students who graduated from a state high school to pay resident tuition at public universities. Since then, eight more states have passed similar laws, and bills are before legislators in several other states. In a few states, financial aid is available. For Ms. Garibay, whose single mother is a cleaning lady, the in-state tuition legislation opened up an otherwise unaffordable opportunity.
However, as the first crop of students — about several hundred — who benefited from the Texas bill prepare to graduate in coming months, they find themselves unemployable. Their legal limbo is turning Texas into the test case for what happens to the new class of educated but illegal graduates.
Lawmakers say they anticipated that this problem could arise but hoped Congress would pass a bill to legalize these students. Such a bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate in coming months.
Congress recessed last year without taking action on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. The bill, which has bipartisan support, is expected to be re-introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah). “The federal government needs to pass the Dream Act so these students can get on with their lives,” says Mr. Bernstein of the immigration advocacy center.
Amid the national furor over illegal immigration, the fate of the bill remains unclear. “Current politics are making this radioactive right now,” says Travis Reindl, director of state policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, a nonpartisan group.
Opponents say they are determined to stall it and still are angry about giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition. “We can’t hold taxpayers accountable to providing discounted education to people in this country illegally,” says Congressman Steve King (R., Iowa). Mr. King acknowledges that the students are likely to pay more taxes as professionals than as blue-collar workers if they remain in the U.S. But, he says, “we can’t make economic arguments” in favor of illegal immigration.
We can’t make economic arguments !?!?!?!?! We can afford to throw away talent? Ok, then how about the moral argument as engraved in on the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
Your wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
How we face this test will determine whether America will remain an economic superpower in this new information age. If the radical, anti-immigrant right prevails, then it is clear that they are not serious about maintaining our economy — and we can say goodbye to the American Century. It will be ironic indeed if those on the right who like to trumpet American exceptionalism are the cause of our decline.