Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mischief: SB 1172 would have school districts providing whitepapers on immigrants to the State.

SB 1172, to be heard today in the Senate Education Committee, is a short one, pasted below in its entirety:

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:

Section 1. Title 15, chapter 2, article 2, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 15-248, to read:

15-248. Students who are not citizens; data collection; annual report; withholding of state aid

A. To the extent permitted by federal law, the department of education shall collect data from school districts on populations of students who are enrolled in school districts and who are aliens who cannot prove lawful residence in the United States.

B. The department of education shall submit a report on or before December 15 of each year to the governor, the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate that summarizes the data collected on a district by district basis pursuant to this section. The department of education shall provide a copy of this report to the secretary of state and the director of the Arizona state library, archives and public records. The report shall include the following information:

1. Research on the adverse impact of the enrollment of students who cannot prove lawful residence in the United States.

2. A detailed estimate of the total cost to the taxpayers of this state for the education of students who are not citizens of the united states, including a separate detailed estimate of the total cost to the taxpayers of this state for the education of students who cannot prove lawful residence in the united states.

C. The superintendent of public instruction may withhold a school district's apportionment of state aid if the superintendent determines that the school district is not complying with the requirements of this section.

A few remarks:

  1. Note the use of language such as "cannot prove". This implies a hearing or some other setting where a student is required to prove legal residence. Schools are not authorized to conduct such hearings, nor should they even attempt it. It creates a hostile environment for student, teacher, and administrator alike, and wastes valuable time. Moreover, none of the parties involved are trained to do this. Leave determination of immigration status to those who can do it properly: (Federal) Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
  2. Providing "detailed estimates" itself is a waste of time and resources.
  3. As I've mentioned regarding various anti-immigrant bills on this 'blog, aliens with and without the proper visas are part of the state's tax base, paying income and sales taxes--often providing false identification papers for the purpose of paying income taxes, an activity the xenophobes like to call "identity theft"--and at least indirectly, through rent, paying property taxes. One can report on the cost alone, or gross cost, but any assessment based on that would be unjust. Net cost is better. The bill doesn't establish whether the districts would have to report gross or net cost. I suspect for Arizona--and I've seen studies demonstrating it at the the Federal level--that illegal immigrant families' net burden on government is less than or equal to others of similar occupation.
  4. It can be very difficult for a young citizen child of illegal immigrants to prove he is in the country legally.
  5. It's difficult to see how the precedent in Plyler v. Doe applies here as no child is being denied anything based on immigration status or ability to produce papers; school districts are instead penalized for not producing a report. Nevertheless, ACLU-AZ staffer Mary Lunetta has indicated that a 1978 opinion (Pre-Plyler!) from Arizona's
    attorney general (either Bruce Babbitt or Jack LaSota) advised against having schools ask kids their immigration status. I haven't found the opinion myself (but have requested it), but supposing the reasoning applies here, the State will have a very costly legal fight on its hands, and if the former AG was correct, it will likely lose. This 'blogger firmly opposes state funding of political campaigns. In the same spirit, I strongly object to what amounts to state subsidy of anti-immigrant posturing.
  6. Who cares, really? Concerns about gross vs net cost aside, in a classroom of twenty-five students, what is the marginal cost of student 26? Is there any indication that illegal alien children--or children of illegal alien parents--are a considerable burden on the State? The bill implies "no" as it would impose a substantial paperwork burden on schools to produce evidence on the matter, evidence rigged by the bill's language to be one-sided. "We'd like to think this is a problem, we know in our gut that this must be a problem, but we don't have any evidence; the schools will produce this evidence for us." That's nuts.
  7. If we had a sane visa policy, this discussion would never leave the barroom because the bigots would never be able to attach the word "illegal" to peaceful people responding to market forces, or to their families. The solution to illegal immigration remains the same as it ever was: a (reciprocal) shall-issue policy for work visas with Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and any place else, so long as it comes with a free trade agreement.

Leave an ALIS comment, as I did, or call Education Committee members, and let them know how bad this bill is for schooling, Arizona, and common decency.

Afterword: Read the list of sponsors. At the head of it is--no surprise--Cardinal Arch-Bigot Russell Pearce. Yes, the same Russell Pearce who lost a finger as a policeman in the course of brutalizing Latino kids and has suffered a Captain Ahab-like monomania ever since. And please pass that link about his finger around. People need to know who this clown really is: a bad "tough guy" cop turned bad legislator.

1 comment:

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