Guest Column by Natalie Avila
Today, many people believe that “illegal” immigrants place a burden on the United States through a number of different aspects. In return, it leads people to believe that “illegal” immigration should be prevented.
Although I do believe strong points are made through the opinions of others, statements based on the issue do not always show enough factual support.
Many people believe that undocumented immigrants are not only taking away jobs from Americans, but that they also place a burden on tax payers through the use of social services.
It’s fair to say that a misconception through American society is that “illegal” immigrants are taking American jobs, but what they fail to realize is that they are taking jobs that most U.S. citizens wouldn’t do. Jobs like picking blueberries that pay by the bucket or picking heads of lettuce while working 12-hour days.
We complain that we pay too much for food, but if it wasn’t for undocumented workers who are underpaid, hired illegally and paid under the table, would a regular head of lettuce run at an average of $1.75?
Just like American citizens, undocumented immigrants do pay taxes. According to the Social Security Administration, an estimated 75 percent of undocumented immigrants are on payrolls, and just like everyone else who works in the United States, federal, state, social security and medical taxes are withheld.
I bet you are asking: “Well, then they must file for tax returns?” This too is false. Many undocumented immigrants don’t file for fear that they may be deported. Undocumented immigrants who do not file do not receive a tax refund. But still, many Americans believe that tax payers foot the bill for “illegal” immigrants.
Not only do some undocumented immigrants pay taxes that are withheld from a paycheck, but they also pay sales tax and property tax. Although “illegal” immigrants are not given the same constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen, the courts have ruled that while “illegal” immigrants are within the borders of the United States, “illegal” immigrants are granted the same fundamental and constitutional rights granted to all Americans. It would be unethical to turn away an undocumented immigrant who is in need of social services.
Now this leads me to the misconception that California is trying to “attract” undocumented immigrants through means of the Dream Act. The Dream Act is an opportunity for undocumented immigrant students who meet certain qualifications to have an opportunity to enlist in the military or to go to college.
Many undocumented students have lived in the United States since they were young, and with the Dream Act, they will have a chance to pursue a higher education. California is not attracting undocumented immigrants through the Dream Act; they’re simply trying to help students currently residing in California to have a chance at a higher education.
The qualifications specifically state that the student must have lived in the United States for a minimum of five consecutive years before the bill was enacted. Any undocumented immigrant who enters the United States after the law was passed, would not qualify for the Dream Act. Undocumented students will be eligible for student loans and federal work-study programs but not for financial aid.
Although many Americans believe “illegal” immigration needs to be prevented, I believe the focus should not be on the so called problems “illegal” immigrants are causing, but maybe should focus on what the federal government is doing to prevent illegal immigration. Immigrants from all over the world come to the U.S in pursuit of a better life and to give their children an opportunity to gain a proper education. Undocumented immigrants are human beings who have rights; they are not “illegal” although their actions may be.
Having a piece of paper that identifies them as being “a citizen” should not be able to incapacitate any person being either undocumented or documented from having the right to dream of a better life which consists of a good education, a way to provide for their family and to have access to social services.
Being “illegal” or “legal” does not define a person, and it should not set restrictions on the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.