A couple from Brazil, seeking a better life for themselves and their 2-month-old daughter, enter the United States unlawfully. They settle in Massachusetts, where 18 years later the girl graduates from a public high school, as assimilated and acculturated an American as her classmates in every respect – except that they are US citizens, and she, by virtue of a decision made when she was a baby, is not. Her classmates can attend the University of Massachusetts, paying $9,704 a year in tuition, the price tag for Massachusetts residents. She can attend only if she pays the out-of-state rate of $22,157; if that’s more than she can afford, she’s out of luck.
How is that a rational public policy? How is Massachusetts improved by making it impossible for an accomplished high-school graduate, a lifelong resident of the state, to gain a university degree? Who benefits when her education – along with the higher earning potential it would lead to – is cut short? She doesn’t. You don’t. Massachusetts taxpayers certainly don’t.
Jacoby then helpfully demolishes the usual line about freeloading:
Those taxpayers, remember, include illegal immigrants. More than two-thirds of illegal immigrants pay Social Security and income taxes. Between 1996 and 2003, payments from tax filers using Individual Taxpayer Identification numbers – a nine-digit substitute issued by the IRS for taxpayers ineligible for Social Security – totaled $50 billion. More than 35,000 such taxpayers, most of them illegal immigrants, annually file returns in Massachusetts.
And, finally, the bottom line, which is really startlingly well stated:
Of course illegal immigration is a problem. But it can only be solved by overhauling our dysfunctional immigration laws, not by demonizing or scapegoating illegal immigrants. Those immigrants didn’t come here in order to be lawbreakers; they broke a law in order to come here. That’s a distinction with a crucial difference – one that sensible and principled conservatives should be able to understand.
Coulda knocked me over with a feather when I finished reading that column. I’m guessing the same holds true for most of Jacoby’s fellow conservatives. Someone tell RMG.