Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, please call your boss and urge him to read your May 9 speech to the National Summit on America's Silent Epidemic in Washington, D.C. Your eloquence in describing the silent epidemic was exceeded only by our shock at the facts you described.
"The dropout rate for African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students approaches 50 percent. ... Every year nearly a million kids fail to graduate high school .... The United States has the most severe income gap between high school graduates and dropouts in the world."
You exhorted us to deal with this problem because "stopping the exodus" is both a "moral imperative" and an "economic necessity." You lambasted our government's current "state of denial" and demanded "a state of acknowledgment."
Right on, Secretary Spellings. But your own boss must be one of those in a state of denial. At the same time you were delivering your call for action, President George W. Bush was demanding passage of the Senate immigration bill that would dump many more millions of high school dropouts in your lap.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 49 percent of illegal immigrants are high school dropouts, compared with 25 percent of legal immigrants, and only 9 percent of native-born U.S. citizens.
Spellings proclaimed in her speech, "The days when you could earn a good living off the sweat of your brow are disappearing. In industries ranging from manufacturing to microprocessing, a high school diploma is the bare minimum for success."
But that's not what corporate lobbyists are telling members of the U.S. Senate. Lobbyists say that employers need waiters and dishwashers to work in restaurants, lettuce and strawberry pickers for big agriculture, and grass-cutters and shrub-trimmers to tend our lawns.
High school dropouts are the kind of workers these employers want to hire. That's why employers are lobbying to legalize between 12 million and 20 million illegal immigrants already here and also to bring in hundreds of thousands more in a guest-worker program.
The CEOs of multinationals publicly announced their dissatisfaction with the Senate bill because it contains some feeble provisions to give some limited preference, eight years into the future, to foreigners with skills. They would prefer instead to give preference to the remote relatives of illegal immigrants, those high school dropouts whom the Senate bill would legalize.
Big business employers prefer to import foreigners who are eager for any kind of menial job. They come from countries where they have endured poverty so severe that it is incomprehensible to even the poorest of U.S. citizens.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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