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Readers Talk Back on Illegal Immigration

Readers shared a wide variety of opinions about "Caught in the Crossfire" , which details how Oklahoma's crackdown on illegal immigration is affecting schools in Tulsa. While some praised the efforts of staff at Kendall-Whittier Elementary, others defended the state's initiative in enforcing laws pertaining to undocuwented immigrants and objected to how the issue was framed in the story.  Some readers are caught in the middle - they encourage compassion for these children and support their right to an education, but at the same time believe we can't turn our backs on the costs incurred by illegal immigration.


Teachers should be role models, not collaborators

Thank you for a well articulated and informative article regarding our nation's educational dilemma concerning immigration. We should remember we are Americans first, then we are educators and concerned citizens next, and certainly being a citizen of this country means we can be both. I also feel we should support the rights of LEGAL immigrants; those that attempt to undermine or circumvent our constitutional processes are not acting in either our best interests of that of our nation and should not be allowed to do so. Those in education are supposed to be role models for pity's sake, not collaborators with those that portend and reconcile lifestyles of illegality.

                                                                                                -- Joe Jamison, Price, Utah

Educational costs are too much to bear

I read your article with great interest. We have many of the same immigration issues going on here in the suburbs of Chicago. While I agree children of illegals should not get wrapped up in the messes created by there parents, what’s the answer?

There is a system in place to provide for "legal immigration". Somehow, we need to control what’s going on before it gets any further out of hand. The IEA/NEA wants to get higher pay for beginning teachers, but how can a community support higher pay for teachers when the community they serve is overloaded with undocumented immigrants that don't contribute equally on the taxing rolls.

The other thing that becomes frustrating is that around December of each year a large number of Hispanic students go back to Mexico  for 30 days or better. Their families then return in mid-January and drop their already behind students back into class. No Child Left Behind says you have to teach everyone, where does it say they have to be present to teach? I cannot help but think this must drag down test scores.

                                                                                                                   -- Jim, Chicago, Illinois

Harmful effects of labels

Thank you for writing your article "Caught in the Crossfire." You have provided a perspective that few journalist have covered. Citizens need to seriously think about the harmful effects of hate-filled legislation, such as HB1804, before one votes to make the legislation law.

As an educator who works with second language learners, I am constantly wondering what I can do to better support my students and their families in this time when immigrant bashing has become so common.  One suggestion is to stop using the word "illegal" in reference to the undocumented.  Just like one would be appalled at the usage of "sexual deviant" to describe our gay population or "decrepit people" in reference to our senior citizens or "resource depleters" to refer to our disable population, we need to encourage role models like politicians and educators to use the term "undocumented" or "unauthorized" instead of the term "illegal."

My eyes filled with tears as I read your article and the desire to help members of the undocumented community grew larger.

                                                                                                -- Rick Hata, Madison, Wisconsin

Assimilation first

Enjoyed your article in the January NEA Today .  Permit me to share some thoughts on this issue.

My own grandfather came to this country around 1900, being a Gaelic speaker from Nova Scotia. He became a successful Pastor in Ohio. My wife's brother-in-law is Hispanic. When we used to live in California, we would gather with this family every Thanksgiving.  His father shared he had walked across the Rio Grande years prior.  At Thanksgiving, we had a wonderful blend of Caucasian, Hispanic, Black all in our extended family. We noticed one thing--all spoke English very well, and all were employed.

For 18 years I worked in the public school system in CA, in a small rural district. We moved here to Florida in June of 2006, desiring a change for our family. Teaching in a small rural county (many don't realize how large CA truly is, and how many rural counties there!), I saw a growing immigrant, mostly Hispanic, population.  

The Hispanic and other foreign students were usually the best behaved, hardest working students we had.  On the other hand, they desired to continue working in their native language, and in CA, the Hispanic students could and did function without English.  On the other hand, my family, and my wife's Hispanic side of the family tried with all their ability to learn English, and to assimilate themselves into the American culture. Today, it seems that others come from other countries, want all the privileges and benefits, while retaining their own language and culture. This is of concern. Look to Canada with Quebec ---look to France with some of the Basque separatists there.  Yes, we continue to want immigrants, but legally, and ones who will assimilate into our culture.  

                                                                              -- Robert MacDonald, Seminole, Florida

Deport them now

I read with great interest your article titled "Caught In the Crossfire." I quite agree that all children should receive an education, regardless of their or their parents' immigration status. However, should I become aware that one of my students is in this country illegally, or his or her parents are, I will immediately contact the federal immigration authorities and report it. I know I cannot be required to do so. But I also cannot be required NOT to do it. (I have done it by the way.)

I am all for legal immigration. Illegal immigrants are, however, first and foremost criminals. I didn't spend thirty years in our army before retiring to become a teacher (fourteen years ago), nor did my wife spend twenty-eight years in the army, nor does our son serve now as a noncommissioned officer in our army to protect and defend criminal aliens who are illegally in our country.

Good article...but be aware that not all public school teachers buy the NEA position on this. I obviously do not.

                                                                           -- Ken Siegel, Needham, Massachusetts

Breaking the law is breaking the law

I was very disturbed by the pro-illegal immigrant slant to your article. People like me that don't support illegal immigration and do not hate the illegal immigrant. However, we do recognize that they are breaking the law by being here and people who aid and abet them are promoting law-breaking.   It is a strain on our government and our citizens to support them. Any economic benefit we receive because of their labor is more than off-set by the expense we incur because of them. It is untrue to say that legislation aimed at curtailing benefits to them is promoting hate. I hope to see more balanced and less biased articles in NEA Today in the future.

                                                                                  -- Rhonda Rogers, Altoona, Alabama

1804 does not promote hate

As an Award Winning Teacher and Character Education Coordinator at my school, I take offense to the wording of the question NEA Today magazine posted in the recent NEA magazine. That wording IS the problem ... not 1804.

The skewed wording: "Is it OK for Oklahoma  to have a law that promotes hate among people?"  Completely misses the mark and the real basis behind 1804 which is: "Is it OK for illegal immigrants to circumvent OUR laws on OUR tax dollars to selfishly benefit themselves?"

1804 does not promote advocates the simplest of expectations we have as Americans...that we expect any and everyone who lives in this country to abide by OUR laws.  Has nothing to do with being unfriendly or being insensitive. I welcome anyone who wants to live in America  but if you are going to live here then...abide by the laws and do so "legally."

                                                                                                        -- Sam Rose

Ignorance breeds hatred

I teach ESL in a North Carolina  High School and deal daily with the fear of deportation many of my students face. One little girl came to school crying that she would "now never be anything."  She had received a deportation letter, but they had not come to take her away as yet.  She is 16 and will be sent back to El Salvador by herself to an area where violence against women is rampant. Her family will remain here. I see no justice in these kinds of actions against children.  This girl has stolen all of our hearts. She is beautiful, bright and ambitious. To send her to be alone in such a climate is so offensive!  I wish the government could see what we, as teachers see: children with dreams and hopes for a better life than their parents and grandparents. 

I am so in favor of the DREAM legislation set before Congress.   It is imperative that this bill pass NOW! I wish people blinded by racist hatred could see the students I work with every day.  Perhaps they would change their minds, but unfortunately, ignorance breeds hatred.

                                                                                                   -- Cherie, North Carolina

A voice in the middle

After reading your article in the latest NEA Today magazine regarding Oklahoma 's new laws targeting illegal immigration I felt compelled to write. As an educator, one of my goals is modeling for my students how to see things in multiple perspectives and to foster critical problem solving skills. I felt your article was not unbiased and lacked perspective on this issue. The issue of illegal immigration is certainly divisive but something that clearly needs to be addressed in this country. While I share the sentiment echoed in your article from educators in Oklahoma that students should be the focus and not their immigration status, the broader issue of illegal immigration is my concern as a citizen of this country. Often articles, like this one, paint those of us who see illegal immigration as a real problem in broad brushstrokes as racist hate-mongers.  I understand there are many loud voices on both ends of this debate.  However, there is seldom room for those of us who have a voice in the middle.  Surely there are other educators who also have a real concern about immigration reform in this country and are at the same time deeply committed to their students regardless of their immigration status. 

                                                                              -- David Peterson, San Diego, California  

What’s happening in Georgia

I very much enjoyed reading your article entitled "Caught in the Crossfire."  The anti-immigration hysteria in this country is outrageous. In Georgia, we are in the midst of a full fledged assault upon immigrants. It's criminal what is happening. 

If you are interested in a success story on how a community reaches out in a progressive and proactive manner to successfully deal with demographic changes, I suggest that you investigate The Georgia Project in Dalton, Georgia. For ten years, we offered many programs designed to increase educational opportunities for Latino children.  Unfortunately, all our work was destroyed in this hateful, unchristian, xenophobic, anti-immigrant politics of today. The Georgia Association of Educators served as a partner in many of our initiatives.

                                                                                            -- John Wilson, Decatur, Georgia

Who pays?

I am a retired educator. I agree that children should not be afraid to attend school.  I agree that we need to be compassionate. However, I don't agree with your assessment of the whole picture of illegal immigration if you don't consider the impact our decisions make on others, including the children.

Firstly: Employers who hire illegal immigrants usually pay less than they would to an American citizen. This unlawful practice is unfair to the employer who abides by the law of the land. The employers who break the law reap bigger profits and the employer who abides by the law loses business (especially in the construction company). What an advantage these law breakers have! 

Secondly: The school is probably over crowded to start with and we build additional rooms to accommodate the students. Who pays for that cost and the teacher?  The local tax payers share the brunt of this dilemma. Is the loss of teaching staff cause to ignore the law of our country?

Thirdly:   Mexico needs to deal with its own people more fairly.  They need to change their attitude. Americans cannot support them and their system of governing. They should not encourage their families to risk death, or even murder to "escape" to USA.  No one should have to leave family, friends for a better life. No one should have to send their money back to separated families.

Fourth:   Many non citizens wait even ten years to share in the wealth of our USA. They take their turn, go through legal processes, learn the language, pay the price and then might become citizens

Fifth: The churches and specific unions are using the word "undocumented" because they, too, have a selfish cause.  (Where in the dictionary is the word "undocumented" for the word "illegal".) Get with the truth.  These unions want to have more members paying dues. 

Six:   In the classroom, the students learn rules, discipline and yet could apply principles when needed.  We should teach them that (the principle) breaking the law does not get rewarded.  They should learn that their parents must remain in their "mother land" to change the corruption and unfairness with which they are being treated there. 

                                                                          -- Alma  Edly, North Brunswick, New Jersey

What’s happening in California

Hi:  Well, I see what you are saying in your article....but here in California, I have a different version.  Not following the laws unwittingly teaches kids to not follow laws, rules.

A huge problem here is the very high cost of living. Parents are working numerous jobs just to pay rent without anybody really taking care of little ones or teaching them anything.  The oldest, typically in 4th grade, might have to hurry home to mind the siblings because the parents are working long hours.  The 4th grader can't avail him of tutorial programs after school. Then he and parents lie about why he has to go straight home. The child then learns to lie, shift the truth when convenient so they don't get in trouble.

Also, they are living in housing meant for college students. That bothers me because they see and hear all the partying going on and since they are too young to process that correctly, they try to join in, cruising the streets while their parents are working. They should be at home studying or reading or talking or discussing things with their parents at home....not whistling at, following, college students.

Oh, we can temporarily "fix" them when they arrive to learn but then they go right back to their neighborhood and then what??? Even with a lot of "front-loading", they can't relate to any of our literature readings coming from such a different background.  By 5th grade students are saying: "Teacher, that's not the way in life" when we talk about our readings, talk about values, morals in the story.  Most of the parents haven't taken them anywhere, done anything with them since they are working many jobs, so they don't have anything to write about either.

                                                                                            -- Vivia Rutland, Goleta, California

Kudos to Kendall-Whittier

Thank you for focusing attention on the issues schools face in Oklahoma  as a result of the current anti-immigrant furor in that state. It is reassuring to know that teachers and schools officials cannot interrogate students about their immigration status, either.

Kudos to Principal Feary and the entire staff at Kendall-Whittier for standing up for the rights of all children to an education.

                                                                                               -- Loren Drzal, Lexington, Kentucky

Protection or Exploitation?

When I was a teacher I tried to empathize with my students, their parents and the community where they resided.  In the greater context, I believe one cannot ignore the social and economic consequences of uncontrolled numbers of illegal immigrants crossing our southern border. Whereas there are bigots out there who would use this issue to promote intolerance, there are other groups who seek to pander to this group of people in order to exploit them.

The National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and numerous large corporations as well as the Catholic Church have their own narrow and self serving agendas regarding the "undocumented."  As teachers our job is to teach anyone who comes in the door, but we cannot ignore the larger issues confronting our community.  I don't necessarily agree that states cracking down on illegal aliens is racist as your article seems to suggest.

                                                                                                                      -- Bob Kuzma

1804 protects Oklahoma

So, what is wrong with states like Oklahoma in taking the initiative in protecting the rights of our own citizens?  Does the U.S. Constitution mean anything to you?  Just because citizens want laws passed pertaining to illegal immigration does not mean these individuals are racists. The laws Oklahoma wants passed are to provide benefits to those that are entitled to the benefits (rightful citizens of all color). 

                                                                                                       -- Jim Nixon, Phoenix, Arizona

It’s not our job to educate everyone

The actions of the Kendall-Whittier were noble, but we will bankrupt ourselves to protect those who choose to break our laws as a lifestyle. If it is our job to educate everyone, why is it the NEA's policy that we should leave Iraq? We are trying to teach them, give them money, create a system based on freedom. Shouldn't we, according to this philosophy not only continue our efforts, but go over and set up an educational system where everyone from any country can learn? We can fund that. Right? Why not set up schools in every village in Africa? India? Indonesia? Can't we, "share our bounty," there as well? Why just the "undocumented workers" families who break into our country here?

I have no doubt that the majority of these students and families are good people, great students, and hard workers with strong values, but it is not our duty, our responsibility or within our ability to take on responsibility for all of them.

I teach these students. I see their numbers in my 3rd grade classroom. I know the impact of this crisis in our educational and social system. 

I believe these states are trying to do what the federal government will not because they do not feel the true impact of their decisions. I commend them. This kind of pandering only encourages the strain on our delicate system to increase, exponentially it would seem.
                                                                                    -- Sean MacLellan, Hermiston, Oregon