Monday, June 25, 2007

Mexican Migrants Exploit U.S. Educational System

As the Senate takes up the revived immigration reform legislation this week, Members of Congress would do well in reading today' s "Column One" article from the Los Angeles Times. The article, "Schools Call Roll at a Border Crossing," highlights the phenomenon of Mexican children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to attend public schools in San Luis, Arizona:

Children who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants but live in Mexico cross every morning to get a better education for free in Arizona, breaking the law that requires them to live within the boundaries of the district. To many of their parents, who have ties in both countries, not living in the district is the educational equivalent of jaywalking.... "

There are no hard statistics on the number of children who break the residency requirement, but some people opposed to U.S. immigration policy have seized on the issue as another example of how they say migrants exploit the U.S. They contend that most school districts do not enforce the law because they risk losing state funding, which is based on the number of enrolled students. "

The whole thing's outrageous. We're not the school district for northern Mexico," said state Rep. Russell K. Pearce.
The article profiles Robert Villarreal -- an American citizen whose parents were Mexican immigrant farmworkers -- who works as an attendance officer for Yuma Union High School District. Villarreal's job is to perform background checks on students suspected of attending district campuses while not legally residing within district boundaries:

Part truant officer, part detective, Villarreal spends his mornings noting names of high school students arriving from Mexico and listening to explanations for why they crossed: They were visiting a sick relative. They were staying with a friend. Their parents divorced and one lives in Mexico, the other in the U.S. He lets the children, including the teens he spotted hiding from him, continue to school, then checks their stories.

A soft-spoken man with a full face and the hint of a mustache, Villarreal, 37, is a San Luis native and the son of Mexican immigrant farmworkers. But he has little sympathy for parents who avoid paying the property taxes that support the district by living in Mexico, where the cost of living is lower and houses sell for about $30,000, compared with the median price of $179,000 in San Luis.

"They want the American services," he said, "but they don't want to be part of the American system."
While national polls generally show public support for legalizing illegal aliens, the hard-right base of the GOP is giving the administration a difficult time, jeopardizing passage of the bill.

I've blogged a bunch on the topic. I'm particulary concerned about
the problem of assimilation and ethnic separatism, although I support the legislation -- which I regard as an "earned legalization" bill, rather than blanket amnesty. (But see the transcript from yesterday's Meet the Press, where Pat Buchanan, conservative author and former Reagan administration political advisor, said passage of the Senate bill would hasten "the end of the United States as we know it.")

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