Reasonable people don't blame children for the alleged sins of their parents, but when it comes to illegal immigration, some opinions change.
Take those of Assemblymen Richard Merkt and Michael P. Carroll, both R-Morris. They have introduced a bill that would bar illegal residents from attending any college in the state.
This bill has no chance of passing. Of course, if it did, it would be amusing to see state government try to force a mandate on private colleges. But let's forget about the practical and concentrate on the philosophical.
Just who are these illegal residents looking to go to college?
A story in the Daily Record on Sunday identified one of them, Felipe Vargas, a sophomore at Morristown High School. Vargas, we read, is getting good grades and wants to study art and maybe become a teacher.
Yes, Vargas is in this country illegally. But it was hardly his choice. His parents brought him to the United States from Colombia when he was 10. Vargas is now growing up very much like any other American teen.
The knee jerk reaction by some -- all one needs to do is to read our online forums -- is to deny this young man a seat in a college classroom for starters and to ultimately throw him out of the country.
But why? The most important point is that Vargas and others in similar predicaments across New Jersey committed no infraction.
Many were brought to this nation at a very young age by their parents. It's not as if they had any choice in the matter.
As the immigration debate has simmered for more than a year now, the anti-illegal immigrant faction has a simple solution: throw them out of the country. They seem unmoved by the fact that is not going to happen.
In fact, the only legislation seriously considered by Congress -- it was backed by President Bush -- would have eased the path to legal status for most illegals working in the United States.
The unfortunate failure of what was a compromise bill to pass has meant that the status quo remains. That's no way to deal with a problem.
But as long as the status quo remains, there are going to be a lot of people like young Vargas. These are youngsters who are going to school in the United States and who are being educated not as Colombians, Peruvians, or Mexicans, but as Americans.
And the question is an obvious one.
When these students graduate high school, what would be better for them and the country? For them to go to college or, if Merkt and Carroll have their way, for them to be denied entry to college?
The answer is as obvious as the question. An educated person contributes much more to society than one who is not educated. A contrary bill -- Merkt and Carroll introduced their bill as response to the other one -- in the Legislature would grant some undocumented immigrants in-state tuition to public colleges. Ten other states do that.
That is the way to go. The fiercest opponent of illegal immigration should realize that an educated young person is of greater benefit to society than a non-educated one.
It's time to look beyond the scathing condemnation of "illegal alien" and consider the bigger picture.
Fred Snowflack is editorial page editor of the Daily Record. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org., or at (973) 428-6617.