Two sides to divisive issue: Does educating illegal immigrants benefit America or deny a seat to an American?

The AJC has a good story today on both sides of the debate over whether a 22-year-old Mexican born student allegedly  in this country illegally since she was 10 should be allowed to finish her college education at Kennesaw State University The topic has generated hundreds of comments on earlier Get Schooled blogs, and those comments reflect a sharp divide among Americans on how to respond to illegal immigrants and on how many educational opportunities, if any, should be afforded to their children.

The case in question involves KSU student Jessica Colotl who was arrested on a minor traffic charge on the  campus. The arrest led to her booking in the Cobb County jail, which has an agreement with federal officials to flag illegal immigrants for deportation. She is supposed to surrender to authorities today and hold a  news conference at 2 p.m. Friday to discuss her situation.

Here are excerpts from both sides:

Many argue that public higher education, including in-state tuition, should be open to all who have the smarts, whether they are here legally or not. It’s better for the economy, they say.

“Disallowing competent students from completing college hurts the nation’s economic interest,” said Pedro Portes, executive director of the Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education at the University of Georgia’s College of Education. “Many of them are bilingual, and that’s an asset. Many of them are highly motivated to perform well in a global economy.”

“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot because these children of immigrants, if given the opportunity, will not only fight in our military but perform well in our industry,” Portes said.

But Steven Camarota, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports vigorous enforcement of immigrations laws, said cases like Colotl’s are a reminder “that the longer you don’t enforce your immigration laws, the more difficult it is to do so.”

“It’s clear that the proponents of an amnesty/legalization use these kids as kind of a political prop,” he said. “But the fact is that if they wanted to have a very narrowly focused amnesty just for these kids, they probably could. But that’s not what they want. They want to use the kids as media-genic face for something much much larger — an amnesty for the 11 million illegal immigrants here.”

D.A. King of Marietta, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, said he is against legislation such as the Dream Act because it only encourages more illegal immigration. The idea behind the Dream Act is to grant a path to legal residence for students like Colotl who were brought here illegally as minors, graduated from high school, have good moral character and attend college or serve honorably in the military.

“I am very confused why we are spending so much time and money violating the law and educating someone who will not be eligible to work in the U.S. upon graduation,” King said. “I find it abhorrent that we would give a classroom seat to an illegal alien, when there are real, legal immigrants and U.S. citizens who want that seat.”

267 comments Add your comment

Craig - The real Criag

May 14th, 2010
9:25 am

Its plain and simple. If she wants an American College Education she should do it LEGALLY. That means going through the proper govt channels and paying the appropriate tuition. I have two problems with her:
1) She is 22 and has been living her for over decade, if she was aware of her immigration status then she should gone and applied for a student visa or something that would have allowed her to legally be here. It is troubling that she claims to want be a lawyer but where, if she is not a citizen then she cannot get BARed.

2) Is that she apparently has been working to pay her way through school. While I applaud her efforts to support herself, the real question is did her employer know she was illegal and if not did she provide false information for the job payment. This is a two fold problem one for the employer and two if she has been committing Identity Theft.

If she is so innocent then why has she made some many misleading statements and the need to employ civil rights groups for a country where technically you are not afforded the same rights and citizens and legal aliens.

CRB

May 14th, 2010
9:26 am

She gave false information and apparently never attempted to get legalized status, yet we are subsidizing her education during a time when there are budget shortfalls all over the state and nation.

I read that she wanted to study law. But if she’s not a legal resident, how is she going to pass the BAR or practice here? Does she plan to return to her home country and practice law there? If so, then she’s effectively taking her subsidized skillset away from the people who paid for it…

Lee

May 14th, 2010
9:27 am

Keywords – ILLEGAL ALIEN. As in, they are not supposed to be in this country in the first place.

We have provided a means by which citizens of other nationalities can enter our country to study, work, and become American citizens. To allow ILLEGAL ALIENS to enjoy the benefits of our hospitality is a slap in the face of every hard working, taxpaying American citizen. It is also a slap in the face to every LEGAL immigrant as well as those citizens of other nationalities who complied with our laws and went through the legal methods to obtain the visas, work permits, study permits, etc.

Sorry ILLEGAL ALIEN, but you and your kind are not welcome in this country. You want to do it the right way, fill out the paperwork, and take an oath to abide by the laws and the Constitution of this great Republic, then we welcome you.

Until then……

SeventhSon

May 14th, 2010
9:29 am

Illegal aliens = criminals … they broke the law = punishment; not reward. Federal criminals should go to jail… I can not believe there’s an issue with this one. DO YOUR JOB AND SEND THEM HOME.

Lee

May 14th, 2010
9:31 am

To answer the original question, space at our colleges is finite. If there was ONE American citizen who was rejected for admission, then yes, having an ILLEGAL ALIEN sitting there denies that seat to an American.

Shirley Venable

May 14th, 2010
9:33 am

Lets stop skirting around the isues. When did the definition of illegal change? Why are we rewarding people for breaking the law? Americans break the law and they go to jail. They are here working and getting paid under the table without paying taxes and social security. They do not help our economy because they shop in their own stores and the ower sends the money back home.
We pay higher taxes for their to go to school and for the teachers. The bill requiring illegals to carry documentation was passed in 1974. If they do not have to obey the law than why should americans?

Cindi

May 14th, 2010
9:33 am

I think the key is not that she is illegal but that HER PARENTS made the decision to bring her here. That is neither her fault nor a decision she had a part in making. She has done what you are supposed to do here – excelled at school and moved on to college. I doubt that she lied about her address – more likely, just like I did, she used a relative’s address as her legal address because she would stay in the sorority house or change apartments frequently. I know when I was in college I used my mother’s address the entire time because it was too hard to continue to change it every time I moved – and I lived in in Athens and she lived here. Her lawyer says it was her legal address and I tend to believe that is true. I may feel differently about illegal aliens that come here to game the system but she was a child and had no say in the matter. To expect her, when she turned 18, to return to Mexico is ridiculous since this is the only life she knows. Don’t punish the child who is just trying to succeed for the sins of the parents.

Martha

May 14th, 2010
9:35 am

Didn’t you read? This kids did not not chose to be here but their parents did! They are not criminals they were brought here and they considered America their land!

Mommy

May 14th, 2010
9:37 am

Jessica we are praying for you! My kids went to school with her and she is a great kid! More than likely she was scared as to what would happen to her parents and that is why she lied. The elephant in the room is getting bigger by the day and something needs to be done to help the CHILDREN who were brought here by their families.

Real American

May 14th, 2010
9:41 am

She broke the law, on several counts & needs to pay the price. She’s literally taking what should have gone to a deserving American. Deport her immediately & let her rot in Mexican prison & work off all the money wasted on her worthless criminal self!

Curious One

May 14th, 2010
9:42 am

This case, if properly handled will force to the table, under sworn statements, the in’s/out’s of what a mess citizens have with illegal imigration in Georgia and Cobb county. Looking forward to seeing all the evidence of citizenship, insurance, car registration, HOPE scholarships, out of state tution, Pell Grants, drivers license, social security payments by her employor, disability and health care received and paid by whom ? These revelations should be wake up call for serious action.

Craig - The real Criag

May 14th, 2010
9:47 am

Cindi –
My only point on contention with you is that when she turned 18, she should have applied for legal status. I agree its ridiculous to expect her to go back but at the same time she needs to be held to the same standard as all foreign nationals entering our country. She would have been allowed to stay her because she has been her for so long so my question is why didn’t she try to do it the legal way.

John Smith

May 14th, 2010
9:48 am

Great, we’re going to let her finish her college education. But where does it stop? Ms. Colotl stated that she desires to become a lawyer, but she will not be allowed to even take a bar exam if she can’t prove that she’s in the country legally.

Richard Hamilton

May 14th, 2010
9:52 am

My whole problem with this girl is that at 21, she doesn’t seem very interested in becoming an American citizen. That is the whole problem with many immigrants and our country overall. I’m for people being able to come to this country and realize the American dream, but with that dream comes a responsibility and obligation.

Wake up people! There are many immigrants here that are serious about realizing the American dream and becoming citizens of this great country. The rest of the freeloaders, who get far better educations and medical services than the country they came from can go home. Taking advantage of American’s generosity needs to change!!!!

Oh and she doesn’t consider America her land Martha because she hasn’t made any effort to become a citizen!!!!!!!!!!!! That is the whole problem.

Craig - The real Criag

May 14th, 2010
9:53 am

Martha -
How do you feel about her parents? Are they criminals or are they innocent in your eyes. Yes she was a victim of her parents decisions but she is an adult. She needs to carry herself like one and that means dealing with consequences of bad decisions. If I break the law whether its speeding, smoking pot or robbing someone. The issue is black and white I broke the law and I need to deal with the repercussions of it. Simply because she was illegally brought here by her parents doesn’t exempt her from abiding by our laws and regulations and unfortunately she did not follow them. If I have to pay my tickets do my jail time and and pay my taxes then she should have to do the same plain and simple.

Ponder

May 14th, 2010
9:53 am

“Illegal is Illegal”!!! Others somehow seem to comply with our immigration process and laws!!

jg

May 14th, 2010
9:53 am

Craig – How do you apply for legal status? It is virtually impossible for these kids to become legal!

Craig - The real Criag

May 14th, 2010
9:57 am

Well first you go to the Mexican Consult and Mexican General Consul, they are in Atlanta and they are supporting her in the press conference today. If people like that pakastani terrorist who became a citizen i nthe time square plot then I think a intellegent girl like her can too. I find it hard to believe that millions of students and people on work visa can manage to do it legally so can other people.

But on a side note I also believe that out regulations are too strict but the immigrants need to make trade offs. I believe if someone is willing to go through a medical screening and criminal background check and come out OK then they should be cleared to be here. That’s the same thing my great great grandparents did.

fer

May 14th, 2010
9:58 am

The child was brought to the US when she was 10, for goodness sakes. She has grown up as an “American”; she feels like an “American”. She didn’t choose to come to this country as an “illegal”. She did choose to do well and to succeed in school and in her community. Why can’t we HELP her become an American citizen instead of punishing her? She is an asset to her community and should be treated as such!

incredulous

May 14th, 2010
9:58 am

I can’t believe the people who think the problem with Jessica is that she neglected to apply for legal status and to become a citizen. I’d bet any amount of money that Jessica would love to have legal status, or even better, US citizenship, more than anything. The problem is, she’s NOT ELIGIBLE. Most native-born US citizens have no idea whatsoever of what the rules are for getting into this country legally and becoming a citizen. Those rules are very restrictive. It’s understandable that native-born citizens don’t know anything about this topic (why should they) but it’s a problem when people start making judgments based on ignorance.

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Craig - The real Criag

May 14th, 2010
10:00 am

fer –
OK – I can agree with you but what if she committed ID theft to get a job and other aspect of life that require SSN. She is knowingly committed ID Theft then she is no victim, I would like to know what her employer knew.

[...] who came to the United States illegally as a child, has turned herself in at the Cobb …Two sides to divisive issue: Does educating illegal immigrants benefit America …Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Georgia College Student Ignites Immigration DebateFOXNewsThe US [...]

chris

May 14th, 2010
10:01 am

I’m glad that Jessica is wanting an education, but she went about it the wrong way. She has been here long enough to obtain her citizenship. I do not feal remorse for her knowingly taking advantage of the system our forefathers fought and died for so many years ago.

I also feal the college should have to pay all the State Tuition Funds back to the state. We never hold colleges responsible for their actions. They just do whatever they want to. They look at themselves as if they are their own government. We pump a lot of money into colleges every year and they always want more. They knew she was illegal and did nothing. That’s why we provide out of country student visas. Could she not have applied for one?

There is a lot of different avenues that could have been taken by this young lady instead she took the same road that most illegal aliens take, which is take advantage of the system.

I really do hope the best for her, but we have to start somewhere. Otherwise this country will be broke like California and with no end in site. Oops we are already there!

[...] who came to the United States illegally as a child, has turned herself in at the Cobb …Two sides to divisive issue: Does educating illegal immigrants benefit America …Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Georgia College Student Ignites Immigration DebateFOXNewsThe US [...]

V for Vendetta

May 14th, 2010
10:03 am

I’m talking to myself here, but . . .

I would take a productive person over a moocher any day of the week. I don’t care who they are or where they are from. We currently have MILLIONS of Americans living on Welfare and other forms of government aid–paid for by those of us who work hard and have families to support. These moochers are of all races and backgrounds, and they have been mooching off of us for far longer than the hispanic population has been growing. In fact, the majority of these moochers ARE NOT hispanic.

Why don’t we open the borders? Why don’t we let more people like Jessica into this country and kick out the lazy moochers who suck us dry. I’d take one of her over a million of them any day of the week. I don’t care where they’re from.

Mara

May 14th, 2010
10:04 am

jg – how does ANYone apply for legal status? You go to the American Embassy in your home country and apply for a visa. Then you wait for us to either open the door or slam it in your face…just like anyone else asking for permission to come into ones home.

as for the topic – the foreign-born offspring of illegal immigrants steal opportunity and resources from American children. They take up class space, text books, lockers, and teacher’s attention. We taxpayers foot the bill for ESL classes, bi-lingual education, free lunches, ‘community’ liason officers, translators for parent teacher night, and more.

incredulous

May 14th, 2010
10:07 am

@chris

“She has been here long enough to obtain her citizenship.” – No she has not. Years in the country as an illegal immigrant don’t qualify anyone to apply for citizenship. Otherwise millions of people would be applying instead of enduring life on the dark side as illegals!

“That’s why we provide out of country student visas. Could she not have applied for one?” Not from within the USA! She doesn’t have an out of country residence.

“There is a lot of different avenues that could have been taken by this young lady” Not really, and they all start with moving to Mexico.

BlueDawg

May 14th, 2010
10:07 am

@Craig: Your argument is flawed. Illegal aliens cannot file for change of status inside the United States. They have to leave first. Leaving means a 10 year ban on entry to the US. So that means no student visa, no change of status, not even a tourist visa to visit friends and/or family.

At the end of the day, our immigration laws suck. They fail on just about every front. It can take close to 30 years for a Mexican or other Central American to be able to legally immigrate to the US. Canadians have it almost as bad. This also fails to meet the need that every industrialized nation in the world has for cheap labor with declining population rates. Germany and the EU have very liberal guest worker and amnesty programs that allow lots of Middle Easterners and Africans to meet Europes labor needs. China and India have exploding populations. Korea and Japan are using technology to meet their labor shortfalls, but in the US we have let immigration become a problem. We make no effort to fix our laws so they meet 1) Our needs as a society or 2) provide an opportunity for the ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’

America’s greatness was built on the back of immigrations that so wanted to come here that they left their entire world behind in pursuit of freedom. From our very founding at Jamestown and Plymouth we are a nation of immigrants. At various times throughout our history though we have tried to bar people from coming, be it Mexicans, Central Americans, Chinese, Italians or my ancestors from Ireland.

Deporting 15-20 million people is not the solution. It would devestate our economy and destroy families that are a mix of legal immigrant, illegal, and American citizens. Fixing our laws, tightening border security and dealing with the immigrants that are already here is critical to solving the ‘problem’. Doing any without the others is a recipe for failure.

meagain

May 14th, 2010
10:12 am

Send her back to Mexico! Go pick up her parents & other family members too! Illegal is illegal & why should she be allowed to break the law? Not sending her back to Mexico will set a dangerous precedent.

Derek

May 14th, 2010
10:13 am

She is obviously a good kid. However, that said her parents brought her here illegally, therefore her parents have probably not been paying taxes for the last 12 years while she was getting a free education in our public schools and then fraudulently getting reduced instate tuition for the last 3 years. The taxpayers of Georgia pay the bills at the public colleges and universities in Georgia, in-state tuition is just a small portion of the cost of a college education and her family has not been paying their share due to their illegal status.

I applaud her for assimilating into American culture so well but at the same time it is a slap in the face to legal immigrants and Americans who have been footing the bill for her while she struts around college, joining a sorority, working a job, like she is legally entitled to be there. Her parents started this crime but she sure has learned how to work the system.

simple fix

May 14th, 2010
10:15 am

IF a student graduates from an American high school; they get an automatic 4 year education visa (as long as they dont have a prior criminal record or gang related charges).

Immigration cannot be fixed until we do have border control. We the people must force the politicans to secure our borders then we can start to figure out what to do about illegal immigrants.

BlueDawg

May 14th, 2010
10:17 am

@Derek: I don’t know if you can make that assumption. Property taxes by far are the most important to the local school system. If her parents own a home, rent a home, or rent an apartment they are paying property taxes in one shape or form. Lots of illegal aliens use forged social security numbers to work for legitimate companies, they pay payroll taxes and in some cases file income taxes. Sales taxes make up another huge chunk of county revenue so they are probably paying those as well. I think it would be important to see how much of those taxes her parents are paying before making assumptions that they are freeloading on the system.

Ted Scheckler

May 14th, 2010
10:17 am

Jessica can come to my place and clean my house. After that, she can be deported. She has been stealing money from the government all these years getting an education and deserves to face the consequences for it.

V for Vendetta

May 14th, 2010
10:17 am

I bet it would be cheaper over time to relax immigration laws and ditch Welfare rather than keep Welfare and tighten the borders. Just saying.

ILLEGALCRIMINALS

May 14th, 2010
10:18 am

She is a criminal like the rest of the mexicans here and should be deported immediately!!!

PixiePundit

May 14th, 2010
10:19 am

So she’s been working? How on earth did she prove her identity and right to work? You are required by FEDERAL law to do so. Has she been paying taxes?

Face it, she broke laws in Cobb County and civil laws Federally. She will *never* be able to take the BAR exam and I doubt with a criminal record any state BAR Assoc. would admit her.

Pompano

May 14th, 2010
10:20 am

The woman is a criminal. Not only is she illegal but she was also operating a car without a license (and likely no insurance). So she choose to put other lives at risk as well.

high school teacher

May 14th, 2010
10:25 am

V, my suggestion is just to make Mexico the 51st state. Then they can all pay taxes and pay into the SS system legally.

What?

May 14th, 2010
10:28 am

I am a legal immigrant now PROUD United States Citizen!!!! Like ms. Coloti, my parents brought me here when I was six years old. Like her i grew up feeling like an American. However, my parents were here on student visas. They paid hundreds if not a couple thousand dollars for the paperwork, health screening, background checks to be allowed to come and stay in this country. We went through the green card process and paid our 700 dollars for the Naturalization application.

We were not alone in this process. I find it hard to believe that Mexicans or other illegal immigrants find it impossible to honor the system the way we and other immigrants did. It is a slap in the face for those of us that paid with time and money to be Americans and while others expect to become Americans for FREE. Don’t even give me that crap about them doing jobs others won’t do. My mom WIPED old people’s you know what for a living so we could eat. My dad cleaned office buildings. Both were college educated.

BlueDawg

May 14th, 2010
10:29 am

@high school teacher: My suggestion would be to figure out why so many immigrants violate our laws to come here. There must be a desire for something that draws them through the cost and effort to get here. Figure that out, find out a way to maximize our national interest in meeting that desire and then adjust our laws to meet it. In any other situation that would be a good business practice.

GA Professor

May 14th, 2010
10:29 am

The real controversy in not with this undocumented young woman as there are plenty in the state of Georgia. When they are caught breaking the law, they are typically deported. Driving without a license and lying to law enforcement officers is against the law. BTW, she does not have a drivers license because she is here illegally. The real controversy is with KSU allowing an illegal alien to matriculate through one of its degree programs. How do you enroll in classes at a state university when you do not have appropriate U.S. citizenship documentation? Why was she not classified as an international student? KSU missed out on thousands of dollars in fees that international students must pay. I am really amazed no one at KSU required the same type of I.D. as other students. It appears as though KSU is showing preferential treatment to illegal aliens when students from Georgia are not given the same type of treatment. No drivers license and no birth certificate can get you admitted to KSU?

Bobby

May 14th, 2010
10:34 am

I have no problem letting the KSU student finish her education. As a matter of fact we need a mechanism since as a matter of law we must educate children of illegal immigrants in our schools that permits them to become permanent residents upon graduation if they have not broken any laws (traffic issues excepted or on a case by base basis). I think she would make a fine American and showed much more ambition to complete her education despite adversity than some of our own American born students.

Robert

May 14th, 2010
10:35 am

We are not discussing the 800lb Gorilla in the room. The discussion is about what the US is doing wrong or what the refugees, illegal aliens, are doing wrong. We are not discussing Mexico’s regressive tax system, regressive education system. Mexico wants more rights for their citizens in the US than they are willing to give US citizens in Mexico. Mexico has been promoting racism against European Americans to hide their failed socialist and statist policies that only benefit the wealthy and powerful. They like to point the finger at slavery in the US, but you won’t hear about the Aztec vs Spaniard tension in their own country. How about having 25 million Americans voting in their next election?

Craig - The real Criag

May 14th, 2010
10:36 am

GA Professor-
I had to provide my Birth Certificate to take some summer classes there one year, on top of my college transcript. I also needed an ID to pay my tutition since I paid for it with a check.

Blue Dog-
That’s a great point but I don’t think my argument is flawed, because if she were to go to the Mexican Consulate or General Consul they could have tried to get temporary asylum. But then again if she is required to return to Mexico to apply for a student visa then I guess that’s what she should have done. Taking shortcuts is not the way to get ahead in life.

Ernesto

May 14th, 2010
10:38 am

LET HER STAY!

Immigrant in America

May 14th, 2010
10:39 am

What if I were to just walk on the campus of Harvard and sit in on classes. Yup, that’s right, no application, no registration, just get to their campus and sit in classes. Should I be able to get a degree even though I never formally applied and registered through classes even though I sat through the classes physically and took exams?!?!? Mark my words, if States start to let people stay here because they are in College and/or are productive but Illegal, there will be more illegal immigration. As a matter of fact, I myself who is an immigrant will start recruiting my extended family back in my native land to send their kids over here….because hey after a while they’ll be given amnesty with full citizenship rights and privileges.

V for Vendetta

May 14th, 2010
10:40 am

Can I trade some of my AMERICAN students for her? You know, since she seems to be concerned with her education and all . . . .

Reverie

May 14th, 2010
10:41 am

“Sharp Divide”? That is misleading. True, there are two distinct views but one side seems to be overwhelmingly popular. I would say the “She is here illegally and has taken no steps to change that status” side seems to be a lot more popular.

Craig - The real Criag

May 14th, 2010
10:43 am

Its amazing to see to the support for this girl come from native citizens while nationalized citizens like What? are totally against her because it is a slap in the face to people who did it the right way.