Migrant children education reality check

When the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 ruled that all children, regardless of their immigration status, are entitled to a free K-12 education, it had no idea what that would mean for school districts (“Engulfed by Migrant Children, and Straining to Teach Them,” The New York Times, Jul. 10).  Only now is the full picture emerging.

School districts across the country are inundated with newcomers who lack even the most rudimentary education.  Moreover, many are traumatized by events they have been through in their native countries.  As a result, school officials are hard pressed to find enough certified teachers to meet their needs and interests.

These newcomers deserve a basic education, but Congress needs to step up to the plate and find sufficient funds to provide it.  So far, they have not done so, leaving states on their own.  Even when they have been able to come up with the funds, many residents worry that their own children are being shortchanged.  This is not xenophobia.  It is a reasonable reaction to what is happening.They have compassion for migrant children, but they also don’t want to see education standards dragged down by the influx of so many undocumented newcomers.

If history is any guide, the success of schools will be decidedly mixed.  As Irving Howe wrote in “World Of Our Fathers” about the wave of immigrant children in 1905 in the New York City system: it “did rather well in helping immigrant children who wanted help, fairly well in helping those who needed help, and quite badly in helping those who resisted help.”

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4 Replies to “Migrant children education reality check”

  1. In my opinion, the SCt got it wrong in 1982 when it held — correctly — that “persons” in the 14th Amendment applied to illegal immigrants but then held — incorrectly, in my opinion — that Texas did not have an adequate justification for treating illegal immigrant children differently than children legally in the state. In the SCt’s defense, the number of illegal immigrant children back then was much less than it is now.

    Seems that, if the SCt’s 1982 analysis were correct, it would follow that it would be unconstitutional for state govt or the federal govt to enact laws that imposed civil or criminal penalties on employers who hired illegal immigrants.


  2. Labor Lawyer: The message sent time and again is that illegal immigration pays. No nation can afford to allow those who want to enter to receive full benefits earmarked for legal immigrants. And yet that is exactly what is happening. In California, for example, you can get a driver’s license even though you are undocumented. The same applies to other things. I have empathy for people trying to escape from horrendous conditions, but if we allow them in, then why would anyone want to play by the rules?


  3. Illegal immigration is a hot-button issue for me.

    In my opinion, the Dems’ pro-Hispanic-illegal-immigrant policies are kneejerk liberalism at its worst and/or a craven ploy to attract Hispanic voters. The Republicans’ loud blather re “border-security” while totally ignoring the obvious way to reduce illegal immigration (criminally prosecuting employers who hire illegal immigrants) is a brilliant but totally immoral political tactic — that is, stir the base while protecting the economic interest of the corporate Republican donors who benefit hugely from the depressed wages resulting from illegal immigrants competing for jobs.

    The losers — under either the Dem or Republican approaches — are poor/working/middle-class citizens who must compete for jobs with the illegal immigrants (who cannot complain if the employer cheats them, who will work for below-market wages, and who will never join a union) and the millions of potential immigrants (poor, rich, whatever) living everywhere in the world other than Central America who have little/no chance of ever immigrating to the US. For me, the Dems’ primary concerns should be the economic interests of the poor/working/middle-class citizens + if the Dems are concerned about helping distressed people in other nations, the Dems should be equally concerned for distressed people throughout the world, not just in Central America.

    The obviously correct — to me, at least — approach to illegal immigration is to: 1) Implement a reliable E-Verify system; 2) Prosecute employers who hire illegal immigrants, with heavy fines and jail terms, thereby drying up employment opportunities for illegal immigrants, causing most of the current illegal immigrants to self-deport and deterring potential future illegal immigrants from coming; 3) Decide — via open Congressional debate/legislation — how many legal immigrants the US wants/needs + what language/education/skill/age/income mix we want and then increase the quotas for legal immigration to implement those decisions; and 4) Open the legal immigration to people from all over the world, so potential immigrants from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America have the same chance to get into the US as Central American Hispanics.

    Neither the Dems nor the Republicans — each for their own reasons — are willing to take this rational/moral approach. Frustrating.


  4. Labor Lawyer: What has always bothered me is the argument that those who want to enter this country deserve to do so because the U.S. was built on immigration. But immigrants who came to this country in the past did so legally. That’s an important distinction given short shrift in the emotional debate today. Columnist Bret Stephens in today’s Wall Street Journal argues that it takes too long to become legal. As a result, let everyone in. If that happened, the U.S. would become overwhelmed trying to meet their needs. This country is supposed to be a country of laws. I fail to see why immigration should be any different.


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