Noncitizen Hispanic youth allowed pathway to college

June 21, 2013 

On June 10, a group of residents of Manatee County attended the school board meeting to bring awareness to a crucial issue for our country and community: educating all our youth beyond high school. This is not a political issue; it's an economic, demographic and moral issue.

Hispanic students make up 24 percent of the total K-12 student population in Florida. However, only 6.2 percent of full-time college students are Hispanic. How do we pretend to create an advanced country if we cast a blind eye to almost a quarter of our student population?

After investing $12 billion per year for our children in education, isn't it a waste to not encourage them to continue their education to enhance their personal lifetime income potential, and the tax revenue potential that government reaps when our children grow to be successful professionals?

While some of these students do not have legal status, they are Americans in every sense of the word, except on paper. That's why last year the federal government created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a two-year permit given to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before they were 16; have lived here for more than five years, and graduated from high school in this country.

To continue to call these children "illegal" is erroneous, hurtful and plainly ignorant.

It is economic tomfoolery for any local government not to engage in this conversation for the future of all of our students that inures to the future benefit for all.

As a local resident, taxpayer, voter and business owner, I was grateful for the opportunity to speak before our elected officials. I would hope all of my neighbors and citizens would similarly celebrate this element of our democracy, joining me in speaking out against racism, discrimination and other injustices that we seek to overcome as responsible citizens.

Cristóbal J. Czaia


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