Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fourth Grade Class Develops Comprehensive Reform Proposals

The fourth grade class at Irish Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colorado (a class of native Spanish speakers in a bi-lingual program) has come up with an immigration plan that congress should look at more seriously than other pending legislation.

Dear Irish Staff,
As you may or may not know, my Spanish literacy class has been reading A LOT about immigration in the past few months in my usual immigration unit.  In the past month or so, we have been engulfed in reading current events about the proposed immigration reform happening in the Senate currently.  As you also know, I usually try to do a culminating project that allows students to express what they’ve learned and feel that they can have an impact on issues that are critical to them.  This e-mail is that culminating project—let me explain…

After reading the reform proposals, and then the amended and revised proposals, the students obviously have formed strong opinions about the shaping of this immigration reform.  In previous years we have written letters to key politicians and have held power point presentations to inform the public.  This year, things in the senate are simply moving too fast and we don’t have time to do that.  So this year the class decided to take advantage of email (fast and easily passed on).    The past week was devoted to students picking apart the reform proposals in “subcommittees” and then deciding if they were in agreement or disagreement with sections of the law.  They stated their opinion to the class which then opened up the whole class debate.  After the debate an opinion was added to the letter.  Then, for it to remain in the letter it had to receive a ¾ majority “blind” vote.  Therefore, this email truly represents the opinions of the 4th grade Spanish literacy class.  For some of the class’s reasons they make broad statements from reading that we have done with statistics to support them.

What do we ask of you?  That you read this email fully, that you research the issue yourself, that you form your own opinion and that you call your Senators and Representatives to express your opinion on an issue that will have immense ramifications.   If you don’t have time to research it yourself, call in with the opinions of the fourth grade class, you’ll simply be giving a voice to those that have none (many of our families are not comfortable calling up state officials given their legal status.) 

The 4th grade’s opinion on the immigration reform proposal:

1) We agree with the idea of giving undocumented individuals living in the country the opportunity to gain residency and citizenship.
a)  We believe this is the correct thing to do because undocumented individuals contribute to our society with their work, their taxes (yes, they pay sale and income tax, what they don’t usually do is risk claiming any refunds), and their cultural and linguistic contributions.  See La otra cara de América, Jorge Ramos, 2000
b) It is unfair to deny rights to those that contribute to a society. 
c) We do not believe that granting residency will increase the # of immigrants entering the U.S. as it did not in ’86.  See 
2) We agree with the amendment of allowing all undocumented immigrants the opportunity to legalization from 2007 instead of the original 2004 date. 
a) This date allows the largest # of immigrants the opportunity to legalize their situation. 
b) 2004 is an arbitrary date.  Why 2004 if 2007 is just as good of a date?
3) We agree with the addition of the “Dream Act” to the legislation.  The Dream Act will allow minor children of undocumented individuals the right to legalization and study at the University level.
a) We believe this to be the correct thing to do because a country cannot survive in the future if it has a large population of uneducated individuals. 
b) Minor children had no choice but to come to the U.S. illegally with their parents, why should they be punished?
c) If the immigrant youth population is denied the right to an education, instead of spending their time studying, they might join gangs or start doing drugs.
d)  Without education, these immigrant children will be forced into low paying jobs.
4) We agree that no immigrant should be allowed to enter the country if they have committed any serious crimes. 
a) We believe this because if we did the country would fill up with criminals and the jails would fill up.  We don’t want to live in a country full of murderers, drug dealers, etc.
5) We agree with the $5,000 fine with the understanding that this money will go towards building parks, schools, etc. for everyone’s use.  Also, this money would have to be collected with reasonably small payments over a given period of time.
a)   We recognize that a law was broken (despite it be broken out of necessity) and therefore, there should be a fine like when one breaks other laws. 
b) We would be in disagreement with this fine if the money would be put towards war or more security measures along the border. 
6) We disagree with the idea of the “Temporary Worker” program.  This program would a certain # of workers (the exact number is being debated) to enter the country legally 2 years and then they would leave for a year and could return for another 2 years.  After working for 4 years they would have no possibility of returning to the country.
a) We believe that 4 years is insufficient for a worker to make any substantial gains to raise his family above the poverty level in his/her home country.
b) Many of our families have been working in this country for 7-9 years and if we had to leave the country we would return to Mexico almost as poor as we came. How would this be different for the “temporary workers?”
c) This system uses individuals.  It fulfills the economic needs of the U.S. but it does not help the immigrant, nor his family in the long run.
7) We strongly disagree with the fact that the “temporary workers” could not bring their families with them. We also disagree that one would not be able to legalize their family members based on this reform. 
b) In addition, it does not make sense economically for the U.S. to separate the families. 
i)    If you separate the head of the house from his family, he will send the majority of his money to his family in Mexico , the money will be spent in Mexico .  If the family is here, they will spend their money here improving the U.S. economy.
c) How can a father/mother raise his/her children if they are separated?  This separation will cause problems because the children without their father will more likely drop out of school, do drugs, join gangs, etc. 
8) The merit point system to gain legal papers has many flaws.
a) To earn points one must have done many things that are impossible or very difficult for a person without legal documents.
i)    Own a home.
ii) Have filed their taxes.
iii)        Own a business.
iv)         Show a high degree of education.
v)  Etc.
9) We do not agree with incrementing security around the boarder.  (The proposal calls for 18,000 new immigration agents, 4 unmanned planes, fences, motion sensors, etc.)
a) This does not address the problem.  Immigrants come to the U.S. for necessity and building fences does not address that necessity.  Starving people will risk coming anyways.
b) Immigrants will have to cross the border in more dangerous areas increasing the already high number of deaths along the border. 
c) Drug dealers and terrorists have money, guns, equipment and resources to get around these defenses, only the poor immigrants do not. 
d) This idea treats Mexicans like criminals and animals that need to be “fenced in.”
e) Could the money invested in this new “security” be used to solve the actual problem instead?
10)     We disagree with the idea of lowering the number of immigrants that can enter legally in the future.
a) There are many people who want to enter now that cannot and are forced to cross illegally.  Lowering the number will not help this.
b) The immigrants are coming because of great necessity and they do a service to the country by taking jobs that many U.S. citizens would not like to take or if they did take them their demanded salary would sky rocket prices on things such as fruits, vegetables, hotel and restaurant service, etc. 
c) We shouldn’t forget that this is a country of immigrants and to deny future immigrants would be unfair.  We are all here thanks to someone letting in our immigrant ancestors; we should be considerate to future generations. 
11)     We disagree with the idea that Z-Visa holders (those that are here illegally could receive this to become legal and work while waiting for their permanent residency) should have to leave the country after a few years and wait several years in their home country for their residency.
a) This would unnecessarily uproot entire families.  This disrupts the education of their children as they have been learning in English and then would be put in schools in another language and educational system.  Then they would be in a separate educational system years until they returned.  This will not prepare the students to work live in the U.S. effectively and get a good job.
b) What if the family can’t find work in their home country while they wait, how will they survive?
12)     We disagree with the idea that immigrants caught trying to cross the border would have to spend up to a year in a U.S. prison. 
a) This practice is not practical for the U.S.
i)    The U.S. would have to build more jails and invest more money to maintain them and the immigrants for this year.  This would cost more $ to the tax payers. 
b) Again, this does not address the cause of the immigration problem and therefore, cannot be a valid solution. 
c) It is unfair to put people in jail when their only real crime is being poor.  If they are put in jail with real criminals they will be mistreated. 
d) Perhaps a fine would be a better punishment.  This might dissuade some immigration and it would increase money to the U.S. instead of take it away.  It would also be more humanitarian. 

Once you’ve studied the issues, please call your senators and congress men/women to express your opinion as we’ve expressed ours.  Please do not sit idly as one of the most important decisions of our time is being made. 

Then, please forward this message to your friends and relatives so that they can get involved as well.  We calculated that if you sent this to just 5 people and they sent it to 5 people and so on that just after just a few times we’d have reached thousands of individuals.  And thousands of calls from citizens about this important issue means that the senators and congress people will make the decision that the majority will support. 

Our deepest hope is that, whatever the final law may be we, and all immigrants, will be treated with respect.  We hope that the people of the United States and the senators and congress men/women will put themselves in our shoes for a moment while they make these critical decisions.  We hope that, in the end, we will be treated as fellow human beings.  Thank you again.

David Autenrieth
4th Grade Bilingual Teacher
Irish Elementary
Poudre School District


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