If opponents of the new Arizona law on illegal immigration think it is radical to actually enforce federal immigration laws, they are surely going to get ulcers over Arizona’s next innovation.
A month ago Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB1070, which makes a state crime what is already a federal crime – being in the country unlawfully. It also requires non-citizens to carry their federal immigration papers on their person at all times – which has been a federal law since 1952.
What angers the critics of the new Arizona law is the expectation that Arizona will actually enforce this state law. To opponents of immigration law enforcement, this is a dangerous and un-American concept.
The co-author of SB1070, Sen. Russell Pearce, is the former Maricopa County deputy sheriff who also wrote the successful 2004 referendum ballot measure, Proposition 200, as well as several other immigration-related laws since then. The man has a track record of success: All of those earlier laws have been upheld in state and federal courts.
Pearce has another bill in the legislative pipeline that will make SB1070 look like a lollipop next to a firecracker. It aims to blow the lid off K-12 educational spending on children who are not citizens. It does not seek to deny them an education; it merely requires that the cost of that education be calculated and made public.
Senate Bill 1097 passed the Arizona Senate but was held up in the House. It will surely pass in 2011 after Republicans increase their majorities in both houses of the legislature.
The bill is simple and straightforward in its language but will hit the education establishment and the illegal-alien apologists where they are most vulnerable: in the pocketbook.
SB1097 requires the state Department of Education to “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.”
The second thing the bill requires is that the state Department of Education submit a report to the legislature summarizing the data and estimating the cost to educate those students who cannot prove lawful status.
Bingo. When implemented – after withstanding a year or two of court challenges – the public will then know the true cost of providing public education to the children of illegal aliens.
A citizen might wonder why such data are not collected already. The answer is that school officials and the public officials who oversee them – school boards and state legislators – do not want to have that data. Why? Because then the public would have that information.
Education costs is only one example of a dirty little secret: Where immigration policy is concerned, ignorance is bliss. The open-borders lobby believes illegal aliens should have the same rights and entitlements to public benefits as citizens and legal immigrants. So, the logic goes, it is better not to have that information available to lawmakers and the public. Knowing too much about the true costs of illegal immigration stirs up controversy.
If the added cost of educating illegal aliens is only 3 or 4 percent of the school budget, citizens might not be too concerned about that cost. But what about school districts where it is 15 percent or 20 percent or 30 percent? In that case, some citizens might want to reduce that cost. How would you do that? One way would be to reduce the population of illegal aliens through more vigorous enforcement of immigration laws.
But that’s not the only way. Citizens – that is, voters – could tell the schools to stop providing that free public education to illegal aliens.
You’ve heard that would be unconstitutional? Well, that’s a myth.
While it is true that the 1982 Plyler decision did forbid schools from denying a public education to children who are illegal aliens, the court did not say such a denial is unconstitutional. The court merely said Texas had not proved its case that providing that education placed an undue hardship on the public treasury.
That may have been true in Texas in 1982, but is it true in Arizona in 2010? Is it true anywhere in Texas, Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah or Georgia in 2010?
The only way to know the answer to that question is to first ask it. But to answer it requires asking for the school enrollment data. That’s why Russell Pearce’s SB1097 is so refreshingly revolutionary.
The Plyler decision did not forbid schools from collecting enrollment data. That is another myth promoted by the “immigrant rights” lobbyists.
Arizona’s school-enrollment bill, like its predecessor SB1070, needs to be introduced and passed in every state in the union. Then stand back and watch the apologists for illegal immigration explain why we should not be asking those questions.