I get questions all the time asking why Texans have to pay to educate illegal alien children residing in our state. Our school district property taxes fund Texas schools to the amount of up to $5,000 per year per student. This amount increases greatly when any child is ruled “special needs”, requires bilingual teachers, or extra tutoring to pass the TAKS tests. And, the above-referenced amount does not cover free school breakfasts and lunches for poor children, so we can all understand the money drain. Children of illegal aliens, those children that were born in the United States, are citizens and guaranteed a “free” K-12 public education. So, unless Congress does the unexpected and takes away citizenship for all “anchor babies”, retroactively to their birth date, for the purposes of this piece, let’s give our attention to illegal alien children only, not anchor babies.
It is important to know some background on the largest nationality segment of illegal aliens here in Texas, Mexican Nationals. A Mexican citizen is guaranteed a free public education up to about eighth grade, which is equivalent to our 5th grade. But, the reality is that most Mexican public schools do not have qualified teachers and do not meet but a maximum of four hours per day, even when the teachers show up. It is a fact that many teachers expect a bribe from the parents to go to work. When there is a government budget shortfall, the public schools are closed. There are no truancy or child labor laws in Mexico so if a poor Mexican family needs their children to sell bananas on the street corners, do you think the Mexican government tells them no, they must attend school? Of course, all these facts only affect the poor Mexicans. The rich Mexicans, usually meaning those of Castillian blood (Caucasian) go to private schools. And, understand that for the poor Mexicans, their culture does not value education for males, much less females. That is why the overwhelming majority of illegal aliens in Texas are undereducated. A sad fact is that most cannot even read or write in their own Spanish, or Indian language. Texans paying for a bilingual Spanish/English education for Mexican elementary school drop-outs is an outrage.
So, why are millions of Texas tax dollars spent to educate illegal alien children? For over a decade I have heard others complain and I have agreed that the practice did not make any sense. Until I became a MCDC volunteer in 2005, I failed to educate myself about what happened. It boils down to needing Supreme Court Justices that follow the Constitution. In order to keep us all better informed about illegal immigration and it''s consequences, here is what I discovered: Important immigration reform took place in this country in 1965, some say, first opening the flood gates to illegal entry. The true nature of the legislation, by the then liberal-controlled Congress, sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy, was to bring more diversity to America.
Not long after the 1965 immigration reform passed, Texas experienced a budget crisis. Recognizing that the Federal government''s failure to secure the border resulted in thousands more illegal alien children every year attending Texas schools, the State of Texas passed a law in 1975 (Statute 21.031) to save education tax dollars by refusing to educate illegal alien children with taxpayer dollars. The law stated that these children''s illegal alien parents had to pay tuition if the children attended Texas'' public schools. In fact, school districts then refused to enroll these children because the school district would not be paid the usual tax monies by the State. Subsequent Texas court cases established that illegal aliens had no right to a free public education because they were in Texas illegally, therefore not entitled. At that time, whole alien families were deported when they were reported to the INS (now ICE) when they tried to enroll their children in public schools. Predominantly Hispanic school districts, such as those in San Antonio and other cities, tried their best to get around the state law. Of course, it was illegal to enroll a child as a citizen when they were not.
Two years later, in 1977, a class action suit (Plyler v. Doe) was brought against a Mr. Plyler, the superintendent of the Tyler ISD, "et al" (meaning also the members of the Board of Trustees). The State of Texas intervened as a "party defendant". The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas by social activist lawyers "on behalf of certain school-age children of Mexican origin residing in Smith County, Texas, who could not establish that they had been legally admitted into the United States". Let it be known that the plaintiffs'' original legal team received substantial help from the American Immigration Lawyer''s Assoc., the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the National Education Assoc., and others who had an interest. The result was that the U.S. District Court decided against the interests of the citizens of the State of Texas. The social activist district judges ruled first that illegal aliens (including their children) were "persons" (an important legal point in the Constitution) even if they were aliens living in Texas in violation of immigration laws. That meant that the aliens were protected under the "Due Process Clauses" of the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Part of the 14th Amendment is concerned with what is called the "Equal Protection Clause", stating that no State shall deny to any person (the catch word) within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. The judge also found that the discrimination contained in the Texas Statute could not be "considered rational unless it further[ed] some substantial goal of the State"; that the law "cannot be sustained as furthering its interest in the preservation of the state''s limited resources for the education of its lawful residents". Also, that "even assuming that the net impact of illegal aliens on the economy is negative, charging tuition to undocumented children constitutes an ineffectual attempt to stem the tide of illegal immigration...". The judge further stated that the Texas Statute "imposes a lifetime hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status"; Additionally, that neither the law in question nor the defendant''s (school district) policies in that regard had "either the purpose or effect of keeping illegal aliens out of the State of Texas". The court recognized that the increase in population resulting from the immigration (legal or otherwise) into the U.S. had created problems for the Texas public schools and that the "special educational needs" of Mexican children further caused financial strain.
This is where it gets really interesting. The State of Texas appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals where the U.S. District Court''s ruling was "affirmed" (let stand). Then, the State of Texas appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the final arbiter of such matters. At that time, in 1981, the Supreme Court was made up of Chief Justice Burger and Associate Justices Blackmun, Brennan, Marshall, O''Connor (the 1st woman), Powell, Rehnquist (who became Chief Justice in ''86), Stevens, and White. Associate Justices Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, and Stevens voted for affirmation of the District Court and the Appeals Court rulings. Chief Justice Burger and Associate Justices O''Connor, Rehnquist, and White voted to overturn. This made it a 5 to 4 affirmation of the original U.S. District Court''s ruling. The four dissenting opinions basically stated that it was not the Supreme Court''s task to set the nation''s social policy. Also, that even though they thought Texas'' statute was folly to try to establish a class of people who were illiterate, that it should be constitutional to limit tax funded public schooling to citizens. They chastised the other justices by stating that the Supreme Court should not be social activists by trying to right all wrongs. They reminded the others that the Supreme Court had previously upheld rulings denying social services such as welfare, etc. to illegal aliens.
Ironically, Justice Marshall, who affirmed the District Court ruling, stated: "While I join the Court opinion, I do so without in any way retreating from my opinion in San Antonio v. Rodriguez". This case (San Antonio v. Rodriguez) was brought in 1968 by poor Mexican immigrant parents as a class action suit against the San Antonio ISD claiming that the Texas public education system funding discriminated against Mexican Americans. Justice Marshall was referring to his vote to overturn that U.S. District Court case, thereby rejecting the issues raised by the original case. The Federal District Court of three judges dragged it out for almost three years but finally, in December, ''71, they ruled that the "Equal Protection Clause" of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution made education a "fundamental right". They also stated that the State of Texas treated poor Mexican-American families as a "suspect class" (another catch word referring to discrimination). So, the Texas school finance system was found unconstitutional. The Court ruled 5 to 4 against poor Mrs. Rodriguez stating that Texas should resolve the issue internally.
But, back to my original story. The dissenting Supreme Court opinions over whether Texas should educate illegal alien children stated: "The Court''s opinion is disingenuous when it suggests that the State has merely picked a disfavored group [a suspect class, remember that?] and arbitrarily defined its members as nonresidents"...their "disfavored status stems from the very fact that federal law explicitly prohibits them from being in the country. Moreover, the analogies to Virginians or legally admitted Mexican citizens entering Texas"..."are spurious. A Virginian''s right to migrate to Texas, without penalty, is protected by the Constitution". If the aliens were NOT here, there would be no need to educate them, regardless of the Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1982, when the decision was made to force Texas to educate children of illegal immigrants, was made up of five Republicans and four Democrats. But, having a majority of conservatives failed to help us then. Two Republican administration appointees, Justices Blackmun and Stevens, voted against Texas. Stevens still sits on the Court today (1975 to present). Today''s Court has seven Republicans and just two Democrats (both appointed by Clinton). It is vital that those appointed and confirmed by the Senate, follow the Constitution and reject the activist tendencies of those who want to de facto destroy our American culture by trying to “right all wrongs”. With this in mind, you may remember the fight President Bush had in getting his Supreme Court appointees approved by the Senate. We should all know the importance of having our views the majority on the highest court in the land.
This is an attempt to fully understand the critical situation that we as citizens find ourselves in today, with a flood of illegal aliens. By being fully aware of the reasons why we are where we are today and being smarter than those who support illegal immigration, we can "right THIS wrong".
- Clark Kirby, State Director