Is U.S. Missing Out On Skills Of The Educated And Undocumented?

PHOENIX — What was supposed to be a year in the U.S. to learn English and advance her career became 11 years for Karla Ayon, a life without legal status and of doing domestic work, rather than using her international trade degree and business acumen.

Things changed for her when she met someone and had a child. The relationship didn’t work out and she is now separated from her daughter’s father. Although she is cleaning houses rather than practicing her profession, she is reluctant to separate her U.S. citizen 9-year-old daughter from her father.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that of the 3.6 million undocumented immigrants eligible for deportation relief under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, 10 percent have some college education and 11 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree. But that program is stalled in a court battle.

As the nation nears decision day on who it wants to run the country for the next four years, the issue of how to deal with 11 million people here illegally and the U.S. citizen children of those immigrants has become a big part of whom they will choose. The GOP’s Donald Trump has said he will end the program created by executive action, while Hillary Clinton supports it and would like to expand on it.

In the mix of the 11 million people here illegally are people like Ayon, who are educated, with skills that advocates argue could make them a contributor to the American economy if they were granted legal status, but that others say should be following the legal process to get to the United States.

In Mexico, 36-year-old Ayon earned a degree in international trade and held several local government jobs, including managing projects to bring investment and job creation to the town of Magdalena de Kino. In Arizona, because she is not here legally, she works as a housekeeper, earning lower wages and also paying fewer taxes.

“I know I have a lot to offer,” Ayon said.

By NBC News
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