Brain surgery ≠ American citizenship

I woke up this morning to OPB‘s Think Out Loud. Host Emily Harris was broaching the DREAM Act, in which undocumented immigrants under 35 who have been schooled primarily in the States could pay in-state college tuition and eventually be granted citizenship amnesty. The percentage of these undocumented immigrants going on to four-year universities currently is minuscule and the majority of them have no memory of their parents’ countries; they were raised in the United States.

The guests on the show ranged from an undocumented immigrant smuggled into the US at seven weeks to the president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform. Although this post is not meant to spawn a debate on the legitimacy of the DREAM Act, it is a response to some of the infuriating and illogical comments made by Jim Ludwick, president of OIR. The part that really got me rankled came at about 35:50 in the episode:

New Yorker Cartoon by J.B. Handelsman
New Yorker cartoon by J.B. Handelsman

“I keep hearing this term ‘undocumented’ thrown around, but that’s an intellectually dishonest term … In addition, it creates this attitude of, man if I just had this document, everything would be all right. Well, a document is more than a piece of paper. It’s a signal that somebody’s done something, accomplished something. It would be like me saying, I’m a brain surgeonput a sign up on the wall that says ‘Jim Ludwick, Brain Surgeon’I am not a brain surgeon. A piece of paper is meaningless unless it shows something.”

What kind of equivocation is that? Becoming a brain surgeon is a result of effort. Being born a citizen of the United States is a result of circumstance.

As I continued to listen, I heard arguments that legalizing the DREAM Act is the equivalent of endorsing a brain drain from third world countries, legal Oregonians would be subsidizing undocumented immigrants’ educations, their admission would reduce college slots for legal students and increase the tuition.

The fact is, even if you are an illegal immigrant, chances are you pay taxes. You cannot vote, but you can be called up for combat duty. If anything, it’s more likely that illegal immigrants are the ones subsidizing Oregonians’ benefits. In regards to education, the admissions process for colleges are also separate from their financial process. Universities send out acceptances to students who meet their standards with little regard to geographical boundaries. They do this knowing they won’t have a 1:1 return on registrations.

In my personal opinion, holding children responsible for a choice their parents made is a return to serfdom. As “Jennifer” said on air to Portland State University’s College Republican president at about 18:33, “The difference [between you and me] is seven weeks.” Claiming that undocumented kids who grew up their whole lives in the U.S. are causing a brain drain from their parents’ country of origin is like saying to an American-born-and-bred visible minority, “go back to your country.”

The whole thing is infuriating because of the lack of sophistication to Ludwick’s arguments. By sophistication, I mean making sound arguments that are based on facts rather than using red herrings, tangents, appealing to emotion and many other logical fallacies. It is an affront to public intelligence for Ludwick to be “intellectually dishonest.”

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Filed under: Ethnicity, Immigration, , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses

  1. Prerna says:

    Pretty fantastic analysis and right on the mark.

    I am ‘coming out’ in the NY Times room for debate on Tuesday. Hope to have your support for the federal DREAM Act.

  2. dennetmint says:

    Follow up to Prerna’s comment:

    Room for Debate: Immigrant Children in Legal Limbo

    Show your support!

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