This Is Not Being Racist

By Donna Garner - May 3, 2006

I have spent most of my adult life trying to help all children become educated citizens so that they can stand independently and do not have to rely upon the social services of our country. Education is the answer; welfare is not. There is no personal dignity which comes from being reliant upon our government and its social services. Those who do rely upon those services are putting huge strains upon the taxpayers' backs.

My husband and I have struggled all our lives financially. My husband was literally reared in a one-room shack by the railroad tracks; his father was physically handicapped and never learned to read nor write. Neither my husband nor I have inherited wealth but have had to work hard all our lives. Our own family has experienced serious accidents and illnesses. We had one income for many, many years. Through it all, we have sacrificed to do the responsible things to pay our taxes and provide the necessities (not the luxuries) for our children.

Through it all, our family has given and given to others; we have never given discriminately but have given to all who are in need. As classroom teachers, we have gone far and above to provide for the needs we have seen in our students and in their families. Many times we provided financially for others while hardly having enough money ourselves to pay our own bills. My husband and I chose to remain classroom teachers because we believe that should be the whole focus of a school. Our teacher retirement is very minimal because it is based upon teachers' salaries and not administrators' salaries.

The problem is that the taxpayers cannot keep footing the bill for those who flood into our country without going through the proper legal channels. Our hospital systems are swamped with people who have no health insurance, and undoubtedly many of them are illegal immigrants. This last year I had two serious accidents which required me to go to two emergency rooms. They were full to overflowing with indigents. We were charged thousands of dollars (out of pocket) besides our insurance (almost $600 a month) for the emergency room services, and we know that money went to pay for the hundreds of indigents who did not pay.

Students can gain independence, and it comes through their working hard to learn English so that they can become well-educated American citizens. English is the language which unites our country. With so many immigrants coming from so many different countries, we must have a common language; and people need to be able to speak it well in order to help themselves to stand as independent contributors to our society.

It is also important for all of us to value our great American heritage. Frankly, many American citizens were offended by the huge display of Mexican flags and the "in-your-face" attitude of the marchers who seemed to have little respect or regard for the United States, the very country which is providing them wide opportunities and subsidizing them with many social services. It is not Mexico which is providing them with those opportunities; it is America. The attitude of many of the marchers and their leaders was anything but thankful and gracious to the taxpayers who provide them with so many social services.

Somewhere or other this immigration debate got turned on its head. In my mind the debate is not about legal immigration. Our country benefits greatly from the sacrifices of those who come to this country legally and work so hard to contribute to it. I have said since well before the time I served on the National Commission on Migrant Education that each time we eat at a salad bar, we have the hard-working migrants to thank for that. However, much has changed since 9/11. We simply must control our borders for the safety and security of everyone in our country, including those legal immigrants who live here. Everyone is safer if we know who is coming in and out of this country.

When I served on the Commission and talked to hundreds of migrant parents, they all wanted their children to learn English because they wanted them to have a better and easier life. They wanted their children to do well in school and were concerned because the families had to move around frequently in order to find work. They loved their families; they all worked hard. I also found that they were often victims of scam artists. They often lived in needless fear of government regulations which "someone" had deliberately misconstrued to them. Most of them because of their limited English abilities could not advocate for themselves. They could not read the contracts or agreements; they could not even understand the verbal directions and deliberations going on around them. They were always dependent on someone else and were very vulnerable to unscrupulous business owners. Many of the families were poorly educated in their home countries, and their unhealthy living conditions had already caused them much suffering. I saw that the longer they stayed in our country, the more dependent they became on our social services. Along with that came the loss of dignity and in many instances the crumbling of the proud family structure. That hurt me to see what our country's welfare system did to people.

There is nothing racist about wanting people to be legal immigrants. There is nothing racist about wanting people to be legal contributors to our country. There is nothing racist about wanting people to be able to assimilate into our country by having the English skills necessary to provide for themselves and their families. This whole immigration debate has been misconstrued by many across this country. The debate is not over legal immigration; it is over illegal immigration. For the safety of our country and for the prosperity of all U. S. citizens, we must protect our borders and insist that people who come into this country go through the legal channels. There is nothing racist about that. It is for the safety and well-being of all those who live in our country.

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