AZ Lawmakers Try to Ban Undocumented Students from Public School

Arizona lawmakers are considering two bills that would block undocumented immigrants’ access to education to an even greater degree than current state law.

SB 1611 — sponsored by state Senate President Russell Pearce (R) — bans undocumented students from enrolling in Kindergarten through 12th grade and attending community college. It also requires schools to notify law enforcement agencies if parents are unable to submit proof that their child is a citizen or legal resident. The other bill, SB 1407, requires schools to submit data on the number of enrolled undocumented and authorized immigrants alike, under threat of funding loss.

Given the state legislature’s persistently anti-immigrant stance on public education, these new laws are plainly part of a larger strategy. The state was the first to pass a law prohibiting students from receiving public funding for education, including merit-based scholarships, and last year welcomed two new laws banning ethnic studies and equal opportunity programs. The measures being considered now would work in tandem with those other laws to categorically deprive undocumented students of an education, while subjecting even authorized immigrants to greater scrutiny than before.

Challenging Plyler v. Doe

New America Media’s Valeria Fernandez reports that the proposed measures are an attempt on the part of lawmakers to spur a challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe. The landmark ruling determined that children, regardless of citizenship, have a constitutionally guaranteed right to public education.

Anti-immigrant politicos have long taken issue with the decision, arguing that the public education of undocumented immigrants is an undue economic burden to the state. But many educators take the opposing view. As one Phoenix high school principal told New America Media, such hostile measures have already cost him 100 students, which means fewer financial resources for the school as funding is determined by the number of students enrolled. Other critics contend that failing to educate these students “would create an underclass and harm the state’s long-term interests.”

Public education undermined by older, white electorate

But, as Harold Meyerson notes at The American Prospect, the unfortunate fate of Arizona’s immigrant population is compounded by the fact that, while only 42 percent of Arizonans under 18 are white, 83 percent of Arizonans over 65 are white. As he states, the educational opportunities of a rapidly growing population of racially diverse youth are being determined — or undermined — by a class of much older, white Americans.

As racial demographics across the United States are shifting in much the same way as in Arizona, the political power dynamic could change accordingly. But until then, state lawmakers in Arizona are taking drastic measures to ensure that the state’s growing majority of Latinos — and especially immigrants — are deprived of the educational opportunities that would enable them eventually to shift the political status quo.

Labor groups jump into the fray

Perhaps that’s why organizations representing sectors besides education are now getting behind educational equality measures. As Seth Sandronsky reports for Working In These Times, prominent labor organizations including the AFL-CIO and the southern Arizona-based Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF) have recently announced their opposition to Arizona’s ethnic studies ban, and their support of the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program, which is allegedly in violation of the ban.

In an interview with Sandronsky, Rebekah Friend, the secretary-treasurer for the Arizona AFL-CIO, illuminates the links between educational equality, labor rights and civil society:

HB 2281 (the ethnic studies ban) in Arizona is part of a bigger, repressive attempt nationwide to control parts of the population, from women’s health care to workers’ and immigrants’ rights. … It’s a mindset to cleanse out ethnic studies, unions, and all social spending generally that we in unions and others have fought for, like the eight-hour working day, child labor laws and social security, and won.

California and Connecticut to pass their own DREAM ACT?

Meanwhile, as Arizona youth and their allies continue the fight for education, two other states are pushing the envelope on educational equality for undocumented students. Connecticut and California have both considered passing their own versions of the DREAM ACT. While the original DREAM ACT, which died in the Senate last November, would have created a path to legalization for certain undocumented youth who committed to attending college, these new bills are less sweeping, if similarly progressive, in scope.

Melinda Tuhus of the Public News Service reports that Connecticut’s DREAM ACT “would allow undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state tuition at Connecticut’s public colleges, if they graduate after four years of high school.” And in California, the legislature’s Higher Education committee has already moved forward with its own mini DREAM ACT, which “would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from a California high school to qualify for college scholarships and financial aid,” according to New America Media/La Opinion.

The measure builds on a California Supreme Court ruling last November, which upheld the state’s decision to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. Both states’ measures run counter to the growing national trend of denying in-state benefits and public funding to undocumented students — a retrogressive movement that began with the passage of Arizona’s pernicious 2005 law, Prop 300.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

Related Stories:

Kansas Rep: Shoot Immigrants Like Feral Pigs

Texas Wants To Crack Down on Illegal Workers — Unless They Are Housekeepers

Ethnic Studies Classes Banned in Arizona


Photo from Mike Licht via flickr
Written by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

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LMj Sunshine

Thank you fro article.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you fro article.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you fro article.

Bruce S.
Bruce S.4 years ago

Don, What you said is exactly what IS happening. The parents come here illegally and have kids, the kids are deemed to be "American Citizens" by operation of law and when they become 18, they in fact DO attempt to "sponsor" the parents. The whole thing has become a circus that we have to pay for. There shouldn't be ANY incentive to come here ILLEGALLY, have a child and then claim that they're an American citizen.

It's not that I don't understand what Linda is saying, it's just that it's so far out of hand, it requires some serious action. You can't view this situation on a person by person basis. I'm sure EVERYONE has a sob story to tell, even REAL American citizens. What makes one person's story better than another? I just don't like the idea of a women coming here illegally while she is pregnant, dropping her load and then claiming that to send her (and in many instances her husband) back where she came from would be "breaking up a family". It's an outrage!

Don Isaksen
Don I.4 years ago

I don't think that's anything we should be worrying about. We are not the one's who would have caused that problem. The childs parents would be the ones who did. If the parents came into our country ILLEGALLY, they have already broken our countries laws and need to be returned to their country of origin. To me, ... it doesn't matter how long the parents have managed to evade the law, returning them to their country of origin is the only solution if our government wants to maintain any credability at all.

Perhaps Congress should pass a law that would allow anyone who feels the child and his/her parents should be allowed to stay in America, can become their sponsor, just like it was in the old days. That way, the sponsor would be responsible for tqaking care of the parents and childs well being. The government would not have to pay to support the ILLEGALS at all, ... just like it used to be. You don't grant ILLEGALS amnesty or citizenship as a reward for their ILLEGAL actions.

Bruce S.
Bruce S.4 years ago

Linda H., In reality it's nothing like you're describing though. Just since the "talk" of the "Dream Act" (what some call a dream can be a nightmare for someone else), nearly a million more illegals wound up here. Where do you draw the line?

Hey, I didn't cause it and I'm not in a position to solve the problem. However, like I've said previously, until EVERY American who wants to work has a job, there shouldn't be any Dream Act.

Linda H.
Linda h.4 years ago

I think that there are rules and then there is justice. A child who is brought here by others and raised here should have a chance to make good. That is all the Dream Act does. It gives them a chance to work out the problem with the benefit to our country.That's all. If they are bad or they fail they lose everything. What would you do if you found out all these years later that you weren't actually born here? What if it was some place very strange to you like Bulgaria or surprising like Argentina? Should you get deported? How would you manage?

Bruce S.
Bruce S.4 years ago

I don't know what the answer is, but, I know one thing for sure. We CAN'T keep being the world's policeman and keep sending (really bribing) every country to support our position(s).

Don't misunderstand me about the Chinese. I was referring to Chinese people that came here LEGALLY. I'm not in favor of ANYONE sneaking in, whoever they are. It's unfair to the people that WAIT on a list to come here legally.

As for Arnold, at ONE POINT, he had people looking support a constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to RUN FOR PRESIDENT. It's a GOOD THING that RULES ARE RULES.

Linda H.
Linda h.4 years ago

cont. and get one. No more of that. There are plenty of deabeat citizens I would love to see deported but no one would take them.

Linda H.
Linda h.4 years ago

Bruce, I'm sorry to hear that. I have a big problem in my esophagus from the same thing since I live one block away from the cut off line for monitoring the effects I don't count either. I already had one operation for cancer since then. I'm sitting here watching the new building rise outside my window.
I don't think anybody is getting anything without a lot of hard work and sacrifice.People who commit crimes are deported or are connected.The Chinese you admire also come here without papers and work hard. So did the Irish back in the 1980's.I know them. This idea that it is so easy to get here and some how make it without any hard effort is just silly. I watch a nice lady dragging around a huge box of delicious tamales she spent the night making and I don't think she is getting a free ride. Lord knows what she want through to get here up here. I want her kids to be educated and healthy. Why would I want to live with a permanent underground community of illiterate hopeless people doing the kinds of work in restaurants and in home care and that they do for the most part and have them spread some disease because they are afraid to go to a doctor or the hospital? As for anchor babies I see that former Gov.Schwarzenegger's anchor baby just got out of the hospital and is doing well. Or do you think it's not an anchor baby if one of the parents is an American citizen. Of course it's a lot harder to get a green card now than when he was illegal. A few years ago you could marry a