MIAMI - Daniela Pelaez has a stay of deportation, after a week of headline-making debate over the legal, political, moral and emotional issues of illegal immigrant families.
Shouldn't this market-driven society consider the bottom line financial investment, too?
According to general figures of cost-per-student from the Miami-Dade school district, Daniela's K-12 public school education has already cost Miami-Dade taxpayers about $78,000.
Some will use that as an argument for cracking down on illegal immigration, and that's fair. But what about those already here, already paid for?
In case you've been out of the news loop, Daniela is North Miami High School's valedictorian who was about to be deported as an illegal immigrant. She is this week's poster child in the debate over how to handle some 11 million long-time illegals currently living in the United States. She has been here since she was four years old, brought by her parents from Colombia.
You likely never gave it a thought that, every year for the last 12 years, you were investing your money in Daniela and countless students like her. I say "countless" because there is really no way to know how many undocumented immigrant children attend South Florida public schools. Schools must admit any student who can prove he/she lives at an address within the schools' boundaries, no questions asked.
Now that we have invested in them, educated them, filled them with facts and knowledge and the ability to create, invent and progress, do we reap the benefits or do we export those benefits?
In Daniela's case, she made good on our investment. She is graduating with an insanely high grade point average, 6.7 (I didn't know that was even possible). She has said she wants to be a thoracic surgeon. That means, someday, if you need lung surgery, Dr. Daniela may save your life.
Unless she is living and working in Colombia.
Daniela's case underscores the need for U.S. lawmakers to take a broader, partisan-free look at the people who are here, why they are here, what they are doing here and how much money we have invested in their future as Americans.
To be sure, blanket amnesty is not the answer, no rewarding or encouraging illegal behavior. But paving a way for these long-timers to earn citizenship -- serve in the military, pay taxes, attend college, volunteer service are some ideas -- it seems only logical, even at a basic dollars-and-sense level.
According to law, Daniela is an undocumented immigrant.
According to common sense and decency, she is essentially American.
And my money is on her.
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