Yes, they are important to our future!
Many of tomorrow’s workers and business owners are the children of today’s immigrants. More than 40% of the growth of our labor force in the late 1990s was due to immigrants, and since immigration WILL continue, they are important to our future growth.
A concern is certainly that many of today’s Hispanic/Latino immigrants are uneducated and unskilled: this could mean that their children will not fit into our knowledge-based and high-tech economy. Often when parents are uneducated, they have lower expectations and don’t encourage their children to stay in high school and go on to college. These parents very often need their children to work in the shops they own or contribute to the household income with outside jobs. Many of their children must drop out of high school to help the family survive financially.
Twenty five percent of the children under the age of six in the U.S. are children of immigrants, the majority in poor families. If these children went to preschool, it would dramatically change their lives, especially if there were also some services available for their parents. If these parents could go to nearby ESL classes and learn some tips on early child rearing, and be shown how important it is for their children to get an education, it would help tremendously in the children’s later public school years.
Children who get preschool education are much more likely to do well in school and less likely to drop out or get into trouble. This is true for immigrant children and any other children who are living in poverty.
It would be wonderful if all parents could get some of this training, but poor parents need it most, especially if they don’t speak English at home or if they don’t have much education themselves.
Blue-collar jobs are on the decline in many parts of the U.S. Factories and textile mills are closing and moving to other countries, shocking many people who were born here and have worked in these factories for decades. Money is often spent to re-educate these workers, yet many of them are unable to learn the computers well enough for these high tech jobs because of their age or their own education shortcomings.
Immigrants’ children who have dropped out of school and have no training in these high-tech positions will have the same problem. Immigrants with limited skills will always work at whatever job they can find; this probably means they will always work at low paying jobs and never get out of poverty. If they are forced to raise their own children in poverty, the cycle continues.
Once they are fluent in English and learn U.S. laws, they have a much greater chance of getting better jobs, although the wage gap between them and people born here may still be quite wide.
Undocumented Hispanic teens who are in our public schools may have lower educational aspirations and not try to finish high school, even when their parents do not need their income. They often feel discouraged because they don’t think they can get a college education, or if they do get one, that they won’t be eligible to work here.
Some states are allowing undocumented students who have attended and graduated from their high schools to attend public state colleges at in-state rates. If these teens have lived in that state for years, have received a good education in those schools and have graduated, why shouldn’t they be allowed to continue their education there without paying the higher non-resident rates?
If they gradute from college, they should be able to apply for citizenship and use their degree to get a high paying job in this country. These workers will contribute to their community, start businesses, buy houses and be wonderful Americans. The money that was spent by the state to educate them to grade 12 will be repaid many times over.
We need skilled and highly trained workers, why would we want these kids to stop their schooling and be forced to work in low paying jobs the rest of their lives? That does not help any of us.