Don't punish illegal immigrant kids who want to be good Americans
Arizona Daily Star
April 30, 2009


By Maurice Goldman
Tucson, Arizona | Published:


Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik would like to see a test case on the issue of whether schools should ask students to show they're in the United States lawfully ("Sheriffs: Are you in school legally?" April 28). Sheriff Dupnik's idea is ill-conceived and would have devastating ramifications for thousands of young, promising students living in Arizona.
The destructive consequences would also extend to a child's friends, family and community. To use a child for the purpose of hunting down undocumented-immigrant parents is not an appropriate or legal means to enforce federal immigration laws.
Dupnik's plan again brings to the forefront the reality that we need Congress and the Obama administration to work out a comprehensive immigration-reform plan or even pass the long-anticipated DREAM Act.
Tuesday's article again demonstrates that our community and country are divided on the immigration debate. In order to fully appreciate the issues of undocumented children, one must first recognize the following: Most, if not all, undocumented children come to the United States at an age where they have no say in the matter.
Sometimes they are brought by their parents and sometimes they are unaccompanied. These children overcome language barriers and, in many cases poverty, to succeed in school. In spite of the numerous legal and financial obstacles confronting these students, many graduate from high school and yearn to attend college. Many others wish to someday serve this great country in the military, while others have already dutifully served.
What sort of effect would Dupnik's plan have? Many students would likely drop out of school and instead of striving to become educated they could potentially wind up engaged in the exact activities that he's trying to prevent. In fact, they would probably become more of a public-charge risk than they would if they were at school and striving to become educated.
The system pays dividends to the state by reducing the dropout rate, leading to substantial savings in criminal-justice costs and the use of public benefits. Ultimately, many of these students will become educated workers who will pay taxes.
Historically, immigrants to this country have been achievers of the highest order. The bottom line is that these students are an untapped resource.
So, what's the solution to this problem? The solution should not be coming from a sheriff who is obviously uninformed in the complex nature of our immigration laws. The solution needs to come from the U.S. citizens who live in Arizona and across this country in speaking out and telling our congressional representatives that we need a DREAM Act, which would grant permanent residency to undocumented students who can demonstrate that they've lived in the United States for at least five years, have good moral character and are working towards graduating from high school or joining the military.
Dupnik should back down from this ill-conceived idea and focus his time and resources on catching hardened criminals and protecting our communities from violent predators. In fact, Dupnik should join in promoting the DREAM Act rather than punishing blameless children.
Write to Maurice Goldman at