Punishing the innocent

Punishing the innocent

Children born in the U.S. are American, no matter their parents’ immigration status. That is the law. However, there are places where these children’s individual rights as natives are disregarded to take into account outside situations, like their home lives.

For that reason, a federal judge last week found a Florida law unconstitutional. This law required 9,000 minors born in and residents of that state, whose parents are undocumented, to pay tuition as if they were out-of-state students-meaning three times as much as other state residents who are legal and native-born like them.

Also slightly over a month ago, a state appeals court said that New Jersey was mistaken in denying financial aid to students born in the U.S. to undocumented parents.

Both courts referred to the 14th Amendment, which establishes that any person born in our country is American. This means that 8% of all babies born in 2008 have the same rights as everyone else, even if their parents are here illegally.

We are very concerned about the antagonism against these minors. Two years ago, there was a heated debate among Republicans about the benefits of denying them citizenship.

This debate disappeared from the news, but several states such as Florida enacted discriminatory laws to this effect. However, the opinions of politicians still resonate.

For example, GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said on 4/26/11 that there must be a constitutional change involving the rights of citizens. Also, Kris Kobach, an advisor on immigration issues for candidate Mitt Romney, promoted a bill in Arizona, which fortunately failed, to impose two types of citizenship.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore, in the Florida case, emphasized the rights of individuals above all other outside considerations. Immigration offenses have no special characteristics, like any other crime, for them to become hereditary.

We think it is time for people to be responsible for their own acts, instead of extending the punishment to the children, who had nothing to do with decisions their parents made that affected them directly. The same thing happens, except for major legal differences, with the Dreamers. It is not fair to punish those who are innocent of all guilt.

Impremedia/La Opinión