View From Lodi, CA: Attention California Hispanic High School Students! Learn To Think For Yourselves
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This is an open letter to all California's Hispanic high school students.

If your parents are nearby while you read this, feel free to share it with them.

In the past two weeks, many of you have taken to the street to protest what you view as unfair federal immigration policies. Some of you have cut class to march; others may have left campus with the tacit approval of your teachers and administrators.

You will be caught up, I'm sure, in the April 10th "National Day Without An Immigrant" protest.

Missing school for any reason is a bad idea; few of you can afford to fall further behind academically.

You are correct in thinking that immigration is an important issue to you. But you're wrong about why it is important.

Unchecked immigration—legal or illegal—is not going to make your adult life any easier.

The sad truth is that many of you will not graduate from high school. Others will graduate but not attend college. The fortunate will get a college diploma but will also struggle hard to get a decent job in an economy that values outsourcing more than hiring Americans.

Why would you want more people competing with you for a diminishing number of jobs?

Given this backdrop, I encourage you to spend some of your pent up energy thinking long and hard about H.R. 4437, the immigration legislation that you so vehemently oppose.

And while you're at it, consider the impact that Senator Arlen Specter's alternate proposal would have on your employment prospects.

If the Senate passes Specter's plan to create hundreds of thousands of new guest worker and student visas, the underachievers among you will be doomed to a lifetime of low paying jobs.

Many of you fear that family members might be deported if H. R. 4437 is enacted. The truth, as your parents and teachers know but prefer not to share with you, is that the likelihood of deportation is slim, at best.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the branch of Homeland Security entrusted with enforcing immigration laws, assigns only about 4% of its staff to workplace enforcement where most deportation cases originate.

Worksite arrests have fallen 94 percent since George W. Bush became president in 2000. Here are the actual numbers: 2, 859 in 1999; 159 in 2004 (Read Edwin S. Rubenstein's column for the full details here.)

Rest easily. Although the threat of deportation makes a great rallying cry, the chances of it actually happening are minuscule. With approximately 20 million illegal aliens in the U.S., how often do you hear of one being deported?

I notice that many of you are carrying Mexican flags, placards that read "Viva Mexico" and signs that claim that the U.S. is land stolen from Mexico. Some urge Mexico's reconquista of Aztlan.

I don't subscribe to the theory that the U.S. stole Mexico. As a pragmatist, my analysis is that Mexico lost the Mexican-American War. The U.S. paid Mexico after a treaty was signed. In my book, that sequence of events does not translate into stolen.

But to play the devil's advocate, I'll allow that the U.S. robbed Mexico of its land.

Now what? If Americans are living on your soil, in what concrete way does your life change or improve? Can you put that on your resume?

Is it your goal to turn California and the rest of the southwestern U.S. back into Mexico?

If I am not mistaken, Mexico is the country that your father and mother escaped because it is the most corrupt of any in the western world. Your parents could not find decent jobs. You could not get a basic education.

The Mexican American War was fought 150 years ago. Aztlan never existed; it is a mythical place.

Many of you were born and educated in the U.S. Those among you who are not a U.S. citizen aspire to become one.

All of you will work, marry and raise your children in here…in America.

You will never live in Mexico, a country that has done nothing for you and cares nothing about you.

Please, you are old enough now to think and act for yourselves. You'll be surprised when you learn what is really in your best interests regarding immigration law.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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