Weekly Diaspora: AZ Lawmakers Try to Ban Undocumented Children from Public School

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

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. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: Suing, Protesting, and Boycotting Arizona over SB 1070

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law, is set to go into effect on July 29. With days left to go, Organizers are in a race against the clock to minimize the bill’s impact on immigrant communities. Meanwhile, legal experts are examining the strategy behind a federal Department of Justice suit recently lobbed against the Arizona law, and other immigrant rights supporters continue to pressure the state via boycott. All of these acts are contributing to a tumultuous fight that’s escalating by the day.

A top concern is that SB 1070 will increase racial profiling and harassment against Latinos due to a provision that requires local law enforcement to check an individual’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person is undocumented. The bill also requires immigrants with documentation to carry papers at all times.

At ColorLines, Jamilah King reports that “activists nationwide are stepping up their protests against the measure.” As part of a new campaign called “30 Days, 30 Events for Human Rights,” a variety of actions including works shops, concerts, and protests have been planned for each day leading up to July 28, the day before the bill is set to become law.

Border governors boycott Arizona

GRITtv has more coverage of the Arizona debacle, including commentary from Arizona state lawmaker Kyrsten Sinema and Suman Raghunathan of the Progressive States Network.

On top of that, ColorLines’ Daisy Hernandez also writes that an annual meeting of Mexican and US governors set to take place in Arizona has been canceled over the controversial law. “Six governors of Mexico’s border states have basically said there’s no way in hell they’re stepping foot in Arizona,” Hernandez reports.

This year it was Arizona’s turn to host the meeting, which has taken place for the last 30 years. But Arizona Governor Jan Brewer 86′d the event, citing lack of attendance.

Another lawsuit?

One might think Arizona officials have enough to worry about after spurring international outrage, boycotts, and countless lawsuits with the passage of one law. But now there are reports that the state may get sued by the Justice Department again if documented cases of racial profiling occur after SB 1070 takes effect.

As Gabriel Arana at The American Prospect explains, the Obama administration’s suit against Arizona centers around the legal question of “whether the state is pre-empting the federal government’s constitutional authority to regulate immigration,” not the potential for civil rights abuses.

But New America Media notes that “in six months or a year, the Department of Justice plans to study the impact of the law on racial profiling,” and if civil rights violations are found, Attorney General Eric Holder won’t hesitate to take action.

Still hope for the DREAM Act

While media outlets direct their attention to Arizona, other immigrant rights supporters are actively working to support the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act on the national level. The DREAM Act is a federal bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants who were brought into the United States as children and have no control over their immigration status.

Feministing reports on the Campus Progress National Conference that took place in Washington DC last week, which featured David Cho, whose parents immigrated from South Korea when he was nine. Because he is undocumented, Cho, through no fault of his own, is barred from most schools and jobs.

Trapped in an ‘invisible prison’

“My dad believed that my two younger sisters and I could fulfill the American dream,” said Cho, who would like to be able to serve in the US Air Force. “But I feel like I am living inside an invisible prison cell. Because there are these invisible bars in front of me that limit me from doing the things I want to do.”

The DREAM Act would benefit people like Cho, by allowing immigrants who came to the country before the age of 16 to obtain citizenship after graduating from high school by either going to college for two years or serving in the armed forces.

Mikhail Zinshteyn at Campus Progress reports that if the DREAM Act were enacted today, “800,000 individuals would qualify for legal status on a conditional basis or having already completed a high school degree,” while  an additional 900,000 would qualify upon turning 18. But it all depends on the Senate, and it remains to be seen if it will can tackle the issue by the end of the year.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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