A colleague of mine, Frankie Volpicella, recently posted a blog titled, “Financial Aid of the Illegal Kind,” commenting on how he believes that illegal immigrants should not be eligible for financial aid, or for in-state tuition in Texas. I have to disagree with him on this one. Illegal immigrants are going to be here in Texas whether we like it or not. It is just part of living in this wonderful border state. We must somehow find a way to get over the negative aspects of this situation and start looking towards the future, and finding a solution to the “problem.”
Volpicella states, “The bottom line is that Texas citizens pay taxes for these schools and in turn receive benefits. Illegal immigrants don't pay taxes, yet are still offered other citizens' hard earned money in the form of financial aid.” What I think may be being overlooked here is the fact that illegal immigrants do pay taxes. They contribute greatly to sales tax as well as property tax. I know that most people who are against benefits for illegal immigrants would love to believe that it’s a free ride for them, but that is simply not the case. According to former Texas Comptroller, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, ““The absence of the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in Texas in fiscal 2005 would have been a loss to our gross state product of $17.7 billion.” That is quite a lot of revenue, considering that the amount of illegal immigrants that actually attend college in Texas is very low; we should be looking at this objectively.
If Texas were to decide against educating illegal immigrants, I truly believe that the state would suffer greatly as a result. With Texas having such a high level of poverty, would barring anyone from a good education in this state solve that problem? Unfortunately, most residents of Texas living in poverty tend to be of Hispanic origin. So because of this fact, I am almost certain that most illegal immigrants in Texas are not able to afford a higher level of education. Contributing to an undocumented citizens’ education will, I believe, only help the Texas economy in the long run. They will become educated, most likely seek citizenship, and become a taxpaying resident. These educated illegals will most likely begin contributing to society financially, instead of relying on social services, which have been such a heavy burden for Texas to carry thus far. This could quite possibly lead to a decrease in the amount of poverty in Texas, being that the poverty cycle will be able to stop with this generation, if just given the chance.
Another issue that Volpicella brings up in his blog is the issue of these illegal immigrants who have graduated high school not yet having obtained their citizenship. Volpicella states, “Any parent or student receiving financial aid for their studies should seek out citizenship first. Though the process is known to be lengthy, many students can easily obtain it before finishing high school.” The first problem that I have with this statement is that you must be at least 18 to even apply for citizenship, which would make it impossible to obtain citizenship before finishing high school, if your own parents are not yet citizens. The other problem with this statement is that, unfortunately, these young adults may not yet be knowledgeable enough about the process of obtaining citizenship. Especially if their parents don’t speak English and are uneducated, they are most likely not receiving any real information about the process. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the following requirements are necessary to obtain citizenship:
· “Be 18 or older
· Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
· Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
· Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of the filing the application
· Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
· Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
· Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
· Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law”