Monday, October 10, 2011

Perry Wastes Opportunity in Presidential Debate

By Steve Arredondo

Rather than articulate a well thought common sense response for supporting in state tuition in Texas for undocumented students, Rick Perry chose the path of inarticulate emotionalism, which has plagued much of the immigration reform debate.  To be sure, immigration is an extremely complex issue that does not readily lend itself to sound bites, however, there are some common sense arguments to be made that should give even the reddest of tea partiers pause (okay not likely but one can hope). After all these are the same people who talk about wanting small government, except for those small exceptions for Social Security and Medicare.

For one, as baby boomers life expectancy increases you will need more high-wage earners to prop up the Social Security program. Undocumented students that qualify for entry into Texas universities would fit the bill as potential high-wage earners.  It makes no sense to take promising students who have the potential to earn high wages and relegate them into the underground economy jobs that pay minimum or subminimum wages.  In the long run such short sighted public policy decreases the tax base which supports the public infrastructure.  Second, the number of Texas undocumented students eligible under the Texas in-state tuition law in fiscal year 2010 was fewer than one percentof all Texas college students. Thus, the argument that undocumented students are taking up space of documented students or would bust the budgets of Texas universities does not hold water.

While these two simple arguments may not be sound bite worthy, they at least more thoughtful and analytical response than simply stating that opponents of in state tuition “have no heart”.  Of greater concern is the lost opportunity to elevate the immigration debate beyond xenophobic rants.

Steve Arredondo is daddy to Rafael II and Emma.  He is also the Supervising Housing Attorney at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit legal service agency in East Los Angeles.  A member of Whittier Area Community Church, Steve serves on the community outreach team.  Steve also serves on the boards of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance and the Interfaith Food Center of Whittier.

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