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Opinion: Give immigrant kids a fair shake
Charles Garcia says a judge was right in ordering that American-born children of immigrants be given in-state tuition rates.
September 12th, 2012
05:17 PM ET

Opinion: Give immigrant kids a fair shake

Editor's note: Charles Garcia, who has served in the administrations of four presidents, of both parties, is the CEO of Garcia Trujillo, a business focused on the Hispanic market. He was named in the book "Hispanics in the USA: Making History" as one of 14 Hispanic role models for the nation. Follow him on Twitter:@charlespgarcia

By Charles Garcia, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Like a viper that slithers through the garden - mostly unseen, menacing, dangerous - a troubling trend is taking hold in this country, a movement to shake the foundations of what "born in the USA" means.

Wendy Ruiz was born in Miami in 1992. She graduated from a Miami public high school in 2010 and applied to Florida International University, a four-year state college that required her to disclose her parents' federal immigration status. Ruiz was unable to provide this information, so she was denied admission.

She then applied to Miami Dade College to complete a two-year degree. When her acceptance letter arrived, there was a catch: She would be required to pay the out-of-state tuition rate. How could this be possible when Wendy Ruiz had lived her entire life in Florida?

As the law stands, all children born in the United States, including those to undocumented immigrants, are granted U.S. citizenship. There are approximately 4.5 million American children like Wendy Ruiz who are U.S. citizens by virtue of birthright, yet whose parents are undocumented for federal immigration purposes.

These U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents are Americans. Many will join the military and help fight our wars to keep us safe. Most of them will someday work and pay Social Security taxes so our aging population can enjoy a comfortable retirement (perhaps even in Florida).

Yet politicians seeking to brandish their nativist credentials will do almost anything to discriminate against these American children, whom they call "anchor babies."

Read Charles Garcia's full column

Opinion: Why 'illegal immigrant' is a slur
A supporter of Arizona's immigration policy pickets outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in April.
July 5th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Opinion: Why 'illegal immigrant' is a slur

Editor's note: Charles Garcia, who has served in the administrations of four presidents, of both parties, is the CEO of Garcia Trujillo, a business focused on the Hispanic market. He was named in the book "Hispanics in the USA: Making History" as one of 14 Hispanic role models for the nation. Follow him on Twitter: @charlespgarcia. Lea este artículo en español/Read this article in Spanish.

By Charles Garcia, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Last month's Supreme Court decision in the landmark Arizona immigration case was groundbreaking for what it omitted: the words "illegal immigrants" and "illegal aliens," except when quoting other sources. The court's nonjudgmental language established a humanistic approach to our current restructuring of immigration policy.

When you label someone an "illegal alien" or "illegal immigrant" or just plain "illegal," you are effectively saying the individual, as opposed to the actions the person has taken, is unlawful. The terms imply the very existence of an unauthorized migrant in America is criminal.

In this country, there is still a presumption of innocence that requires a jury to convict someone of a crime. If you don't pay your taxes, are you an illegal? What if you get a speeding ticket? A murder conviction? No. You're still not an illegal. Even alleged terrorists and child molesters aren't labeled illegals.

By becoming judge, jury and executioner, you dehumanize the individual and generate animosity toward them. New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes says "illegal" is often "a code word for racial and ethnic hatred."

The term "illegal immigrant" was first used in 1939 as a slur by the British toward Jews who were fleeing the Nazis and entering Palestine without authorization. Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel aptly said that "no human being is illegal."

Migrant workers residing unlawfully in the U.S. are not - and never have been - criminals. They are subject to deportation, through a civil administrative procedure that differs from criminal prosecution, and where judges have wide discretion to allow certain foreign nationals to remain here.

Read Charles Garcia's full column