Abbott’s Threat to End Immigrant Education Is Just Cruel

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Plyler v. Doe, the landmark Supreme Court case that struck down a Texas law denying public education to undocumented children, turned 40 this week. And this historic decision is on Governor Greg Abbott’s mind.

As he pointed out at the beginning of May, following a leaked Supreme Court draft decision which portends the likely reversal of the 1973 abortion decision Roe v. Wade, Abbott intends to challenge the precedent of free public education for immigrant children.

When syndicated talk radio host Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo asked Abbott last month about the burden of public education funding for students without remedial English skills, Abbott began by correcting him: “They don’t aren’t just Spanish speakers – they come from 155 countries across the globe.”

Next, Abbott shared his plan to attack the previous one.

“In Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court ruled against us on whether to deny, or say, Texas should bear this burden,” Abbott said. “I think we’re going to resuscitate this case and challenge this issue again because the expense is extraordinary and the times are different than when Plyer v. Doe was published decades ago.”

These heartless nonsense. It is not for educators to check the immigration status of people, especially children who may not have had the choice of coming to the United States. It is also foolish not to educate immigrant children, who will then pursue careers and contribute to our country in so many ways.

Some background. In a Decision 5-4 on June 15, 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that 1975 Texas legislation that allowed the state to withhold funds for the education of children of undocumented immigrants from local school districts violated the Equal Protection Clause.

Above all, the Supreme Court held“education plays a fundamental role in maintaining the fabric of our society” and “provides the basic tools through which individuals can lead economically productive lives for the benefit of all of us”.

Teachers and principals did not complain about the “burden” of educating immigrant studentsbut Abbott has once again fabricated a false issue.

Punishing children for our country’s flawed immigration system is immoral. It is also economically unwise. Public education for all children benefits our state and our country because we need children to grow up to be productive members of society.

Immigrants are here to stay and spend money. According to American Immigration Councilimmigrants make up 17% of Texas’ population, and undocumented immigrants paid approximately $2.6 billion in federal taxes and $1.6 billion in local and state taxes in 2018.

President of the American Federation of Teachers of Texas Zeph Capo said Abbott’s senseless and cruel plan would harm childrenand we agree.

Who would be responsible for determining which students are legal citizens. Administrators? Reception staff? Teachers? Principals? Nobody wants this job.

We wonder if Abbott knows how much Texas spends on the education of undocumented immigrant students. A May 2020 Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy cost-benefit assessment study undocumented immigrants in Texas estimated the cost of public education for approximately 160,000 undocumented Texas students in 2018-19 to be $1.5 billion.

By comparison, Abbott’s failed state-funded Operation Lone Star border security operation soared to around $4 billion, with no apparent end in sight.

The education of immigrant children, whatever their status, is a much more noble and useful investment.

Public schools are not free from inequalities and challenges, but they are also a safety net. Schools provide not only education but also basic necessities, such as breakfast and lunch, which are especially crucial for low-income students.

Should our highest court overturn this decision, its effects would be devastating. In 2018, Pew Research estimated 675,000 unauthorized immigrant children lived in the United States.

We cannot turn our backs on immigrant children. But some officials never turned to them or looked them deeply in the eye.

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