Immigration examination: Teens discuss issue |

Immigration examination: Teens discuss issue

Mike Lawrence

— This month’s “Hot Topic” definitely lives up to its name.

Seven months before November’s elections, illegal immigration is shaping up as the dominant issue that voters will take to the polls — this year’s gay marriage, according to many political pundits. An estimated 11 million immigrants live illegally in the United States, boosting the economy and work force while straining social and medical services. In recent weeks, thousands have rallied in cities across the country to support immigration rights, while citizen “Minutemen” patrol southern borders to aid an overburdened U.S. Border Patrol, they say.

The U.S. Senate left for Easter break deadlocked about legislation that would reform the nation’s immigration policies. Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard visited Steamboat Springs on April 12, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar was in town Friday. During both visits, Routt County residents raised questions about immigration issues including border security and tougher penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

Teen Style staffer Devon Barker, 17, welcomed the chance to give his two cents.

“I personally think that having a tighter border with fences is a great precaution. Illegal immigration is becoming a serious problem,” said Devon, a junior who is home-schooled in Clark. “Not only do they take away American jobs but also, how many of them pay taxes? This is costing taxpayers massive amounts of money to support thousands, if not millions, of unpaying people.”

Steamboat Springs High School junior Kylie Hawes, 16, disagreed with the idea — proposed and turned down in Congress — of putting a double-layer steel fence along high-traffic sections of the southern border.

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“The borders are secure enough,” Kylie said. “People who enter illegally are just trying to make a better life — give them a break!”

Kylie said she supports giving illegal immigrants access to public services such as schools and hospitals.

“One reason a lot of people immigrate is to help their children get a better education,” she said. “They need heath care even if they cannot afford it.”

Devon cited a source close to home in his argument for immigrants following legal procedures to enter the country.

“My dad is an alien — Canadian originally,” Devon said. “He went through the whole process. It wasn’t easy, but he still did it the right way.”

Fourteen-year-old Paula Ninger, an eighth-grader at Steamboat Springs Middle School, got straight to the heart of the immigration debate as she talked through the issue.

“You can’t just kick people out — that’s unfair, even if they are illegal,” Paula said. “But then again, they’re still illegal.”