Education is a right for everyone

Our opinion

With the most important presidential election of many of our lifetimes only four days away, the topic of immigration has once again taken center stage.

A new Alabama immigration enforcement law requires schools to ascertain the immigration status of students at registration. Since the announcement, officials have noticed that 5 percent of the state’s Hispanic children are absent from classrooms. This made us look at the bigger picture and wonder, do the children of illegal immigrants have the right to a public education?

Our opinion is that the Alabama immigration law is cruel and counterproductive.

School superintendents and principals across the state confirm that attendance of Hispanic children has dropped noticeably since the word went out that school officials are now required to check the immigration status of newly enrolled students and their parents.

That rule is part of the law’s sweeping attempt to curtail the rights and complicate the lives of people without papers, making them unable to enter contracts, find jobs, rent homes, or access government services. In other words, to be isolated, unemployable, poor, defenseless, and uneducated.

The education crackdown is particularly senseless and unconstitutional. In 1982, the Supreme Court found that all children living in the United States have the right to a public education, whatever their immigration status. The justices’ reasoning was shaped not by compassion but practicality: It does the country no good to perpetuate an uneducated underclass.

These people are already here, through no fault of the children, so why are we making it harder for them to succeed in a world where the deck is already stacked against them? We should be making it easier, not more difficult for children to go to school. It is a proven fact that the more educated a person is, the less likely he or she is to be on welfare, food stamps, and other types of public assistance that would end up costing the state more in the long run.

Unless you agree with Donald Trump’s premise that we should round up and deport the 11.4 million undocumented people who are already in the United States—a project that, according to Bryce Covert, economic policy editor at ThinkProgress, would cost between $400 and $600 billion to apprehend, detain, process, and transport all undocumented immigrants back to their countries of origin.—many of them are here to stay.

Accoring to Covert, this year, the economy is projected to produce $18.7 trillion in goods and services. But 6.8 million undocumented immigrants are employed, and removing them from the country all at once would reduce that output by somewhere between $381.5 to $623.2 billion. It could also leave millions of jobs empty, as there wouldn’t be enough legal employees to fill all the vacancies, particularly in industries that disproportionately employ undocumented workers, like construction, farming, and hospitality.

The impact would continue to compound over the years. The think tank The American Action Forum previously found that mass deportation would reduce the economy by 6 percent, or $1.6 trillion dollars, over 20 years. And the impact could be even larger than that, as those estimates don’t take into account the drop in consumption that would inevitably come if so many people were to be forced out at once.

It’s clear that many of the undocumented people here in the country are not going anywhere anytime soon. Therefore, it is in all of our best interest’s to make sure their children get the best educations possible.