Deporting the best and the brightest

Two recent stories that I find equal parts confounding and infuriating.

First, from Raw Story/Reuters, “Miami students rally for valedictorian facing deportation“:

A judge on Monday denied a green card request by Daniela Pelaez, an 18-year-old who was born in Colombia and brought by her parents to the United States when she was four. Her lawyer is appealing the decision.

Pelaez grew up in the Miami area after she and her family overstayed their tourist visas. A high school senior, Pelaez said she has applied to several Ivy League universities.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Pelaez told Miami’s WSVN Channel 7 TV station. When she heard the judge’s decision, she said, “I thought, what am I going to do in Colombia?”

And Charles Kuffner directs us to the story of Jose Luis Zelaya, as reported by the Houston Chronicle’s Susan Carroll:

That [Jose Luis] Zelaya is an illegal immigrant is no secret.

In April, he stood in a plaza on [the Texas A&M] campus, in the same spot where the elections commission will announce the results … and shared his story of coming to the U.S. illegally at age 14 from Honduras to escape an abusive, alcoholic father.

It was a bold move on one of the nation’s most conservative campuses, where some student leaders have attracted national media attention for vocal opposition to a Texas law that allows certain illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition. But it may not stop Zelaya from becoming the first openly undocumented illegal immigrant to lead the student body at A&M.

Kuffner’s response to Zelaya’s story applies to Daniela Pelaez as well:

What exactly is the public policy rationale for kicking a guy like that out of the country, instead of helping him become a citizen and reaping the benefits of his talent and work ethic? I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have made my way from Honduras to the US by myself at the age of 14. Yeah, sure, he cut ahead of some people in line. I say that’s more a problem for us to fix than for him to be punished for, but whatever. Fine him some appropriate amount, make him do some community service (I’m going to step out on a limb here and guess that he’s already doing that), have him write 100 times “I will not cross international borders without having all my papers in order”, etc etc etc. But seriously, isn’t Jose Luis Zelaya the kind of person we want in this country?

To the extent that I can discern any argument for not allowing America to benefit from the presence of determined, gifted young people like these two, it seems to be that it would encourage others to “cut in line” by breaking our opaque and labyrinthine immigration laws. So it would create a kind of moral hazard.

But I’m still not seeing the downside. Let’s assume the worst-case scenario this moral-hazard concern imagines — that thousands of other determined, gifted young people come to America, study hard, earn the respect of their peers and their teachers, and commit themselves to benefiting America as their own home.

How would that be a bad thing?

Some more good links on immigration:

Update: Good news — “Miami high school valedictorian avoids deportation

"Sort of like how people now insist that no one told anyone to buy a ..."

And his own received him not
"To some extent, I think we all "take from it what we like" just in ..."

And his own received him not
"What, they could have said. "No, please leave the children in cages, we won't look ..."

And his own received him not
"Exactly. Even the candidate being a child molester could only turn the margin away. I'm ..."

And his own received him not

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • P J Evans

     There are something like 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. The population is more than 300 million. That makes the illegal immigrants about 3 percent of the total population.
    I haven’t figured out yet how that makes illegal immigrants a threat to the country in any way.

  •  Yes, and the mean, awful, bigoted, unfair, flyover state Americans don’t want her here because she has brown skin. Your point?

  • Anonymous

    Because they corrupt our women, rape our jobs, and steal our culture.  With their foreignness.

  • Aaaaaaaand now with HR 347, if you want to protest deportation of illegals, better not do it near any building that has Secret Service protection!

  • Tonio

    I suspect most opponents’ fears are far more basic than that. They’re addicted to majority privilege, so having any minority that speaks a different language creates an almost existential terror, where they’ll wake up and all the signs will be in a different language. Even if we grant their basic argument that the minority would grow into a majority and overturn the native language and culture, the minority is still far too small to make such a change. They would realize that if they thought about the matter for even a microsecond instead of wrapping themselves in self-righteous feelings of martyrdom.

  • I think this is one reason anti-immigrant sentiment seems to be concentrated in people over 30. Pretty much after that age, learning a different language is really hard to do. Something about your mental wiring seems to freeze; I know that for me, try as I might I can’t get my head around C++ even though I know C, and that’s just a minor example of two closely related languages.

    Consider all the ex-Yugoslav refugees, for example; I’ve known quite a few, and while the younger ones can speak English quite well the older ones, having spoken Slovenian, Macedonian, or some variant of the Serbian-Croatian-Bosnian continuum, tend to have trouble speaking without it being pretty laborious.

    To end up with a Firefly-like cultural and linguistic fusion would require quite a lot more forebearance than is currently shown these days.

  • Well I guess being in LA, your perspective would be different. I’m stuck in Bumfuck, Georgia, so no, it’s not exactly the place one goes to escape conservative culture.

  • Lori

    I think HR 347’s only real function is as a campaign point for Democrats. There is no way the Senate is going to pass anything similar and even with the far from ideal court situation we have these days there is no way it would pass judicial review. Besides the obvious problem that it clearly eliminates the Constitutional right to free speech, there’s also the intent problem. It specifically says that you didn’t need to know or have any reason to know that a person protected by the Secret Service was on the premises to violate the law.

    If the point of this is something other than showing people why they should not want Republican rule I’m sure I don’t see it.

  • Lori

    Ah yes. No doubt this is an issue where SF, LA & DC vs small town Georgia is a major difference.

  • So why is it not reported that any of the Dems voted against HR 347?

  • Well I guess being in LA, your perspective would be different. I’m stuck
    in Bumfuck, Georgia, so no, it’s not exactly the place one goes to
    escape conservative culture.

    Really?  I’M from Bumfuck, Georgia, myself, though now in the ATL.

  • Awesome, I live in Atlanta, too.

  • Lori

    So why is it not reported that any of the Dems voted against HR 347?

    is going to sound glib, but here’s my honest best guess: It’s a combination of
    Beltway Blindness and knowing that it won’t go anywhere because it won’t pass
    the Senate.
    House is a total festival of wingnuttery and of course they’re all being
    lobbied to hell on gone by the 1%*. As a result its members no longer have any
    idea how things look to average folks outside the Beltway. So, they figure they
    vote for it to keep their “tough on crime” bona fides up to date and
    their contributors happy, with no fear that it will actually become law because
    the Senate will never go for it. I think they honestly don’t see that this
    could be turned against them.
    Dems running against House incumbents or running in other races this should be
    a pretty easy issue to exploit though. If it was me, I’d already be
    storyboarding an ad riffing on either stormtroppers or V for Vendetta.


    law is pretty clearly designed mostly to stick it to Occupy and the WTO
    protestors and other similar groups of uppity peasants. It’s so totally artless
    about it, not to mention blatantly unconstitutional, that it isn’t going
    anywhere. I suppose it was intended as some sort of shot across the bow or
    something. I don’t know.

  • Tricksterson

    And now after they’ve studied hard and earned the respect of their peers and teachers we want to kick them out.  Or did you conveniently forget that part?

  • I think this is one reason anti-immigrant sentiment seems to be
    concentrated in people over 30. Pretty much after that age, learning a
    different language is really hard to do.

    Ack! Don’t tell me that! I’m 30 in two months, and I’m only up to German, French, and Latin! How the hell am I going to fit Indonesian, Spanish, Russian, Italian, and Croatian into two months???

  • My Latin professor said he found it easier to learn new languages as he got older. The more languages he learned, the better he was at learning them.

  • Deird and Lilira: Hmm!

    I know my own experience has been less helpful language-wise; but I do know that I’m past 30 and I’m finding it less easy to grok new languages, human or computer.

  • MaryKaye

    I thought I might have trouble learning a new computer language in my mid-40’s, but then I was suddenly told I had to teach a beginning programming course in Python.  I was one step ahead of the students all quarter, but I am now fluent in Python.

    My Swiss colleague had a part-time job once teaching Swiss German to a retiree whose hobby was learning new languages, three of them a  year. But I have to suspect that some people’s brain wiring is just remarkably different.  I have always, since high school,  found foreign (human) languages excruciatingly difficult:  I ought to know a usable amount of French and Russian, but I don’t actually.  (And what little I do know is jumbled together.)

  • Dan Audy

     The problem is that to the people in charge (aka the 1%) they have no incentive to maintain the economic strength of the US because they can bring the profits back easily to the US (or wherever they choose to live) and exploit desperate peoples under corrupt governments to do so.  It is a classic case of the commons where every corporation recognizes that if it isn’t exploiting America’s economy for short term profit over long term viability then some other company will.  Without regulation they weaken the American’s economy to power them while shifting the toxic industrialization that we outlawed locally to other more pliable nations.

    My personal (incredibly idealistic and hopelessly foolish) theory on how to solve the problem is a two pronged approach dealing with both tax avoidance and human rights abuse.

    Capital gains would be taxed as income without any special exceptions, rates, or loopholes.  Business tax rates would be moderately increased and extremely cleaned up of loopholes and exceptions however they would receive tax credit of X dollars + 5% of the salary paid to non-excutive employees working in the US.  Stock options and other financial instruments used as compensation for excutives and employees may not be sold, traded, or leveraged for a period of 5  years.

    Significant tariffs would be placed on all imported goods based on the nation of production’s environmental and employment law.  This would mean that it would no longer be as profitable to offshore abuse and mistreatment of employees that we have decided is inhumane when done to Americans.  Individual companies that voluntarily meet or exceed the necessary standards could apply for inspection and tariff relief and would provide a valuable internal source advocating for improved laws.  Penalties for falsifiying inspections or reverting to sub-acceptable conditions would be a minimum of the full tariffs avoided to as much as twice that amount as punitive action.

  • cyllan

     That makes three.

  • My maternal great-grandmother was fluent in four languages (actually the family story was that she spoke five, but no one can remember what the fifth one was) — English, Latvian, Russian, and German.

    I seem to be the only one of her descendants who got her gift for languages, though.  I am, of course, fluent in English; speak Spanish well enough; do not-too-badly, all things considered, in Mandarin; and have a more-than-passing acquaintance with German. 

    And this summer, my son and I are going to start learning Italian.  I told my son that I want him to start learning a foreign language soon and offered to teach him one of the ones that I speak, or said that we could learn a new language together.  He chose to learn a new language.  And the only one I could find enough self-taught material in was Italian. 

  • Then go to Mexico, or maybe Lybia, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Israel.  The US has over 312 million people and according to the US Census Bureau we will have over 439 million people by 2050.  We don’t need anymore people!  We should immediately put a moratorium on all immigration except for people with exceptional skills NOT available from US citizens.

    I want the US government to concentrate on solving our domestic problems, not the world’s problems.  There is not a SINGLE problem we face as a country that can be solved or even made better by having MORE people.