Handle kids' immigration status carefully - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Handle kids' immigration status carefully

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Posted: Friday, July 10, 2009 1:09 pm | Updated: 2:00 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: Citing a simple quest for information as his motive, Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, crafted SB1172, a measure that would have required all students, or their families, to provide their schools with proof of citizenship.

Citing a simple quest for information as his motive, Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, crafted SB1172, a measure that would have required all students, or their families, to provide their schools with proof of citizenship.

Statistics gathered from this requirement would have been used for a potential attempt to reopen the issue from Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited Texas from refusing to fund the education of illegal immigrants due to lack of "compelling state interest," and out of fairness to children still protected by the 14th Amendment.

Certain concerns possibly contributed to the legislative rejection of SB1172 - that it would basically hand the state a key to lock children out of public schools while opening a door to prosecution of their parents.

However, by altering the content of the bill, such as placing the research in the hands of an independent organization free of any personal records and state association, like the Pew Hispanic Center, those fears could have been abated. After all, Pearce said his intent was only to gather overall statistics, and individual names would be kept private.

Pew already estimates that 73 percent of children of unauthorized immigrants are U.S.-born citizens who collectively make up 6.8 percent of all students enrolled in the nation's elementary and secondary schools. By the math, that means only roughly 1.8 percent of those students are illegal immigrants.

Due to the nature of the immigration debates, the concept of this bill could make its way back onto the legislative docket next year. And perhaps it should. If Pew's estimates were validated, it likely would reveal there is not enough "compelling state interest" to overturn Plyler v. Doe.

In any case, Arizona should not allow a legitimate desire for knowledge to turn into a campaign to deny an education to any group of U.S. citizens, regardless of their parents' immigration status. That's why collection of such information would have to be handled very carefully.

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