Academic Purgatory: An illegal immigrant earns a Ph.D. Now what?
In the July 1, 2011 edition of the Chronicle Reivew, section B of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the cover story by Ilan Stavans, Academic Purgatory: An illegal immigrant earns a Ph.D. Now what?, highlights the plight of a young man, who, through scholarship, hard work and oversight, attains his Ph.D., but is unable to secure employment. Sadly, this is the reality for many graduates at all levels of postsecondary education; the job market and the economy are in a very weakened state right now. This is a very unfortunate situation, and I might even be inclined to feel an extra twinge of sympathy for this seemingly well-educated man but for the fact that he is an illegal immigrant.
Now, before anyone gets up-in-arms, I have absolutely no issues with immigration regardless of state or country of origin, creed or color, religion or sexual orientation; that is, after all, the foundation that this great nation is built on. I do; however, have a problem with immigrants arriving illegally and then choosing (yes, choosing) to remain as such.
Early in the article (paragraph 8), the author would have us believe that Jorge, the student on whom the story is based, was “brought illegally to the United States as [a child].” However, later in the article we learn that this was not the case at all. In fact, Jorge twice tried to enter the country of his own accord, but was jailed and deported, before successfully landing state side on his third attempt. After a rocky, but determined start, he found himself in the Fresno, CA area at the home of an Aunt where he began attending high school and where he began his trail of lies, deceit, illegality and abuse of the system.
According to Stavans, the cost to educate an individual student within the public school system is $10,792. It is unclear in the article how many years Jorge spent in the public K-12 school system; his first attempt to enter the country was in 1996 and he graduated from high school in 1999. By this, we can determine that Jorge was educated in the public school system for at least two years, putting the cost of his high school education at $21,584 in government and taxpayer dollars. He then moved on to acquire his Bachelor’s, Master’s and eventually Doctorate degrees – at least another eight years of education – at the average cost of $9,000 per year, bring the total for his postsecondary education to $72,000, part of which was funded by scholarships both academic and private, scholarships that by being given to him were denied to other students. Ah, but, Jorge is grateful for his education, and how is that the author believes that we should find comfort in the fact that he is grateful? He should be grateful; he was illegally taking money from qualified, deserving, law-abiding citizens. Perhaps, worst of all, the colleges and universities that he attended allowed him to commit this robbery; they covered for him and fueled his criminal fire allowing him to continually steal monies never intended for him. Sure, he worked hard and achieved good grades, but so did multitudes of other students, some who sat right next to him, who did it as legal members of society and this country and in accordance with the missions and visions of the universities they attended. Jorge is far from alone in his struggle to achieve academic success; there are more students than not who rely on scholarships, grants and funding outside of the typical federal and state grants, and student loans to be able to remain enrolled in college. The issue here; however, is that Jorge was awarded monies that should have gone to legal citizens or legally attending foreign students - these students were denied funding as a result of his receiving it. He was awarded private scholarships and grants, and was employed at these institutions all at the expense of the universities, their communities, and their tax-paying, law-abiding, legal populaces.
While his lack of attainment regarding citizenship is appalling, even more so is the fact that university officials, at more than one institution, turned a blind eye to the crime and assisted Jorge in his deceit. Covering for him, offering him employment and scholarship money makes them just as criminally liable. These are educated people – Jorge is an educated man – how is it that no one found this to be an injustice to our legal system and our country’s core values and foundations? How dare they feel that the time and money they spent is a “significant waste of investment (paragraph 29),” when the investment never should have been made in the first place? If these people and these institutions wanted to help, they should have helped him pursue, study for, and attain his citizenship in order for him to have attained his education legally – the investment, then, would have been worth it!
I understand that citizenship is not easily achievable, but this man has been in the country for fifteen years; I should think that to be more than sufficient time to at least begin the process! According to the article, Jorge did not feel that he could leave his homeland via legal means, but has he ever even applied for citizenship since taking up residence in the United States? Has he considered every avenue, pursued every option, and exhausted all other means by which he could reside legitimately within the United States of America and enjoy her liberties free from the reported abuses he experienced in Mexico; avenues, options and means by which he would be able to take advantage of the many opportunities afforded to American citizens?
The immigration laws are in great need of reconsideration and evaluation by our government, yes, but in the meantime, the law is the law. There is a right and a wrong, it is black and it is white, and there are no shades of gray where laws can be bent to sympathize with the difficulties of one over another. Jorge has illegally resided and received his education in the United States. Period. He should not be employed in the United States. Period. He should; however, have to repay every dollar he was given on his educational journey. He should, also, offer a very heartfelt apology to, and ask for forgiveness from each and every student who may have qualified for that money, but was denied it. He should, then, apply for citizenship, or return to Mexico and reenter the United States via the appropriate legal channels, or simply return to Mexico - he is employable there.