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.

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CT-Sen: Why is Simmons getting back in?

Well now this is bizarre.

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) dropped of the race for Chris Dodd’s Senate in Connecticut when the state GOP convention endorsed his primary opponent, fake wrestling star Linda McMahon. But now you see me, now you don’t, and Simmons appears to be getting back into the race – in a very half-hearted way. He's not campaigning or fundraising; he’s just airing one state-wide ad after nearly two months of inactivity.

Rob Simmons, a former congressman who suspended his campaign for the United States Senate in Connecticut only a few weeks ago, is jumping back into the race for the Republican Party nomination with a statewide advertising campaign touting his candidacy. …

In an interview, Eric Janney, the campaign chairman for Mr. Simmons, that the former congressman was not reactivating his campaign. Instead, he said, Mr. Simmons simply wanted to remind Republican voters that they could vote for him if they so desired.

“As he has been going around the state the last couple of months, folks ask him about staying involved in the race,” Mr. Janney said. “Many people did not realize that Rob remained on the ballot. So he decided to do a television ad that reminds people that they have a choice and that Rob is on the ballot.”

I’m very confused as to Simmons’ motives. There’s no way he’s going to win the GOP nomination this way – McMahon is campaigning, fundraising, airing multiple ads, and has the state party’s endorsement. You don’t beat that with just one ad that doesn’t even say “You should vote for me,” just “You can vote for me.” Is this Simmons’ way of trying to punish the tea party for purging moderates like him out of the party? All he can hope to do this way is create intraparty division and weaken McMahon before the general. And while that seems highly unlikely, it wouldn’t surprise me – McMahon may well be the single most unqualified candidate for Senate this entire cycle, more so even than South Carolina’s Alvin Greene. Simmons must know it, and can’t be happy about the direction his party is moving. The National Journal gave him a conservative score of 46.8 out of 100 in 2006, behind 9 Democrats and hardly acceptable material for the 2010 Repub Party, New England or not. It's either about that or he's just got a political itch he can't scratch and little perspective on reality.

Speaking of McMahon’s general election campaign, a new Rasmussen poll out yesterday shows her trailing Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal 52-40, and a recent Quinnipiac poll has her down even more, 54-37.

Finally, from the CTDems, here’s a video showcasing what kind of a Senator McMahon would be:

CT-Sen: Sky not falling

Looks like I overreacted in last week's post about how Connecticut Attorney General Dick Blumenthal has spoken about his Vietnam-era service record. The original New York Times account was damning, but some local media have pushed back on the story. Colin McEnroe of the Hartford Courant posted a long list of "flaws" in the New York Times piece, which McEnroe characterized as "weak journalism with very little meat on its bones." If you watch the whole video excerpted by the New York Times, you'll see that Blumenthal describes himself as "someone who served in the military during the Vietnam-era in the Marine Corps" before saying later, "we have learned something very important since the days that I served in Vietnam." Also, Blumenthal was indeed on the Harvard swim team in college (though not the team captain). The Times piece had suggested Blumenthal embellished his resume by wrongly claiming to have been on that team.

On Friday Connecticut Democrats held their state convention and nominated Blumenthal by acclamation after primary opponent Merrick Alpert withdrew his name from consideration.

Yesterday Blumenthal apologized again, telling the Hartford Courant,

"At times when I have sought to honor veterans, I have not been as clear or precise as I should have been about my service in the Marine Corps Reserves,'' Blumenthal said in a statement emailed to the Courant late Sunday by his spokeswoman, Maura Downes. "I have firmly and clearly expressed regret and taken responsibility for my words.

"I have made mistakes and I am sorry. I truly regret offending anyone,'' Blumenthal said. "I will always champion the cause of Connecticut's and our nation's veterans."

Today Blumenthal's campaign released an internal poll showing him ahead of likely Republican nominee Linda McMahon 55 percent to 40 percent, even though 91 percent of respondents had heard about the controversy regarding his statements about Vietnam. Last week the Republican-leaning pollster Rasmussen found Blumenthal ahead of McMahon 48 percent to 45 percent and leading former Representative Rob Simmons 50 percent to 39 percent. Not only could Blumenthal still win this race, he may still be favored to win. Charlie Cook declared this race a "tossup" just after the New York Times story broke.

What do you think, MyDD readers?

CT-Sen: Sky not falling

Looks like I overreacted in last week's post about how Connecticut Attorney General Dick Blumenthal has spoken about his Vietnam-era service record. The original New York Times account was damning, but some local media have pushed back on the story. Colin McEnroe of the Hartford Courant posted a long list of "flaws" in the New York Times piece, which McEnroe characterized as "weak journalism with very little meat on its bones." If you watch the whole video excerpted by the New York Times, you'll see that Blumenthal describes himself as "someone who served in the military during the Vietnam-era in the Marine Corps" before saying later, "we have learned something very important since the days that I served in Vietnam." Also, Blumenthal was indeed on the Harvard swim team in college (though not the team captain). The Times piece had suggested Blumenthal embellished his resume by wrongly claiming to have been on that team.

On Friday Connecticut Democrats held their state convention and nominated Blumenthal by acclamation after primary opponent Merrick Alpert withdrew his name from consideration.

Yesterday Blumenthal apologized again, telling the Hartford Courant,

"At times when I have sought to honor veterans, I have not been as clear or precise as I should have been about my service in the Marine Corps Reserves,'' Blumenthal said in a statement emailed to the Courant late Sunday by his spokeswoman, Maura Downes. "I have firmly and clearly expressed regret and taken responsibility for my words.

"I have made mistakes and I am sorry. I truly regret offending anyone,'' Blumenthal said. "I will always champion the cause of Connecticut's and our nation's veterans."

Today Blumenthal's campaign released an internal poll showing him ahead of likely Republican nominee Linda McMahon 55 percent to 40 percent, even though 91 percent of respondents had heard about the controversy regarding his statements about Vietnam. Last week the Republican-leaning pollster Rasmussen found Blumenthal ahead of McMahon 48 percent to 45 percent and leading former Representative Rob Simmons 50 percent to 39 percent. Not only could Blumenthal still win this race, he may still be favored to win. Charlie Cook declared this race a "tossup" just after the New York Times story broke.

What do you think, MyDD readers?

Blumenthal Continues to Post Major Leads in CT-Sen

The Cook Political Report continues to call the Connecticut Senate race currently competitive, only leaning towards the Democrats, and The New York Times wrote last night about concerns that the presumptive Democratic nominee in the race, Richard Blumenthal, is simply another iteration of failed Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley. But apparently there's a group of folks who disagree with these sentiments: The actual voters of Connecticut. Here's Rasmussen:

Democratic Senate hopeful Richard Blumenthal continues to pull in over 50% of the vote and hold a double digit lead no matter who he’s matched against.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Connecticut finds Blumenthal leading Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, by a margin of 52% to 39%.

The longtime state attorney general collects 55% of the vote when matched against former GOP Congressman Rob Simmons who earns 32% support.

Peter Schiff, a high-profile Wall Street investment banker, trails 54% to 29%.

Don't trust Rasmussen Reports? Concerned that it is too liberal leaning? Pollster.com, which aggregates all available polling, gives Blumenthal continuing large leads against Rob Simmons, Linda McMahon, or Peter Schiff, the three leading Republicans in the race. Yet apparently Blumenthal is in dire straights, and this race remains currently competitive. Okay...

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