Immigration and Schools, Part 1: Federal Policy

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Immigration and Schools, Part 1: Federal Policy
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Immigration & Diversity
“Too many, too quickly, from one place.” That’s Victor Davis Hanson’s view of immigration from Mexico. Hanson is a central California farmer, military historian and author of Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (2004).
Few dispute that immigration enriches the nation. But there can be too much immigration, and there are special risks when most immigrants come from one part of the world. California is now 35 percent Hispanic. With the Hispanic birth rate at 1.7 times the national average, more than half of California newborns are Hispanic. Stats on the demographic transformation of California are instructive:
Percent Non-Hispanic White
1962 - 92% [In 1965 the Hart-Celler Immigration Act replaced national origins preferences favoring Europe with family reunification, which heavily favors countries of origin of the most recent immigrants, those from Latin America and Asia] (1)
1980 - 67%
1990 - 57%
2000 - 47% (2)
2010 - 39% (projected: California Budget Project) (3)
2020 - 34% (projected)
States remote from the Mexican border have seen a surge of immigration from Mexico. In the 1990's North Carolina’s Hispanic population quadrupled. Officials estimate from current elementary enrollment that Hispanics will be one third of North Carolina’s high school graduates by 2013. (“North Carolina Preps for Latino Boom ,” Associated Press/CNN, 7-9-04)
Americans did not vote to Latinize their country. Nor did they knowingly support legislators espousing that cause. Why is it happening? 


The United States was launched on this nation-transforming course by legislation and by judicial rulings. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) provides a comprehensive history of U. S. immigration legislation. Highlights:
Prior to 1921, there were occasional exclusionary laws. For example, in 1882 Chinese were excluded (their exclusion was repealed in 1943), in 1903 - polygamists and radicals, in 1907 - people with physical or mental defects or with tuberculosis, and in 1917 - alcoholics, illiterates, stowaways, vagrants, and men or women entering for immoral purposes.
Legislation in 1921, 1924, and 1929 established a national preference quota system. The quotas were designed to match the national origin mix of peoples then in the United States. The quotas thus limited immigration and favored immigrants from northern and western Europe.
In 1952 multiple laws were brought into one comprehensive statute, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The INA preserved the national preference quota system favoring European immigrants. It also limited immigration from the Eastern hemisphere and established preferences for skilled workers.
In the fifties, the national origins quota system began to break down. Many immigrants arrived under special temporary laws enacted for Cold War refugees. This and the Civil Rights Movement’s spirit of tearing down barriers based on ethnicity set the stage for a far-reaching revision of immigration policy.
The Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 abolished the national origins quota system. The new system emphasized reunification of families. Every immigrant potentially begins an unending series of relatives who can immigrate. The major source of legal immigration shifted from Europe to Latin America and to Asia. European immigration fell from 50% in 1965 to 10% by 1988.
In 1982 Theodore White, a Pulitzer-Prize winning historian, would write of the Immigration Act of 1965: It was “noble, revolutionary - and probably the most thoughtleess of the many acts of the Great Society.” 
How revolutionary? At the 2005 conference of the Federation for American Immigration Reform [FAIR], Steven Gillon, historian and dean of the Honors College at the University of Oklahoma, told the assembled: “Before 1965, 95 percent of the new immigrants had come from Europe. After 1965, 95 percent came from the Third World. The 1965 act has transformed American society . . .” (“Immigration: the Elephant in America's Room,”by Georgie Anne Geyer, Universal Press Syndicate, October 4, 2005). (4)
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was intended to curb illegal immigration. IRCA provided for sanctions and penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. To avoid a major law enforcement problem with illegal aliens who had already established roots, a program was established to legalize illegal immigrants who had lived continuously in the U. S. since prior to 1982. 2.7 million people became legal residents under IRCA. Follow-through on employer sanctions, however, was minimal. Employers are seldom sanctioned and legalization — amnesty - spurred more illegal immigration. 
The Immigration Act of 1990 raised the ceiling on legal immigration by 40 percent.
The Illegal Immigration and Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA) was also designed to curb illegal immigration - by streamlining deportation, adding border paatrol agents, adding investigators to pursue employer sanctions, increasing penalties for document fraud and similar measures. Enforcement remained an afterthought in Democratic and Republican administrations.

Role of the Courts

The Immigration Act of 1965 accelerated legal immigration. The U. S. Supreme Court greatly increased illegal immigration.
The crucial ruling was Plyler vs. Doe . In 1982 the Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, that children illegally in the United States are entitled to a free public education. Plyler struck down a Texas statute withholding funds for the education of children who were not legally admitted. The states, the majority reasoned, “have some authority to act with respect to illegal aliens . . . where such action mirrors federal objectives,” but since Congress was not inclined to deport illegal alien parents, the court was “reluctant to impute to Congress the intention to withhold from these children . . . access to a basic education.” (5)
A ruling against California’s Proposition 187 in 1994 was also critical. Prop 187 would have denied non-emergency health care, state-funded social services and public education to illegal aliens. The measure passed with 59% of the vote. Moreover, by 1994 Congress had shown - with IRCA in 1986 - an intent to curb rb illegal immigration. But as one disgruntled supporter of Proposition 187 would later write, “A single Jimmy Carter-appointed federal judge, Mariana Pfaelzer, in 1994 nullified California Proposition 187.” Newly-elected Democratic governor Gray Davis dropped the state’s appeal of the judge’s ruling. (6)
In reflecting on the judiciary’s role in our immigration crisis, an observation by Thomas Jefferson comes to mind: “You seem to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine . . . The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal . . . knowing that to whatever hands confided, with corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.” [Sept 28, 1820 letter to William Jarvis]
One year later Jefferson wrote, “It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression . . . that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary . . . working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped.” [August 18, 1821 letter to Charles Hammond]

Anchor Babies

Another driver of illegal immigration is “birthright citizenship.” The federal government confers automatic citizenship to any child born in the United States - even to illegal aliens having crossed the border five minutes before. Ten percent of all U. S. births are to illegal alien mothers according to a July 2005 report by the Center for Immigration Studies. The new “Americans” immediately become eligible for a range of federal, state and local benefits.
The story does not end there. The babies become “anchors” eventually permitting extended families to immigrate legally. Birthright citizenship policy is based on the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment, which was written to guarantee that blacks born in the United States could never be denied citizenship. An examination of the ratification debate for the 14 th Amendment reveals, beyond doubt, that the Citizenship Clause was not meant to apply to children born of illegal aliens. George Will has a fine column on the history of the Citizenship Clause.
Thus, since 1965, ill-considered legislation and dubious rulings have combined with business’ growing addiction to exploitable labor (below-market wage, frequently off-the-books) to drive immigration to today’s sustained high level. The leadership of both political parties show no inclination to slow immigration — illegal or otherwise.
What does heavy immigration mean for schools?
The simplest effect: increased costs. The Federation for American Immigration Reform has produced cost estimates for each state using simple per-pupil expenditure calculations - ignoring such additionaal costs as special programs for non-English speakers, supplemental feeding programs and capital expenditures (school construction, debt service). Look up estimates for your state at “Breaking the Piggy Bank: How Illegal Immigration is Sending Schools Into the Red.”
What are the effects in the classroom? That’s Part 2.  


 1) See 1960 Census data for California; scroll to Table 14. Calculation: White population (14,455,230) divided by Total population (15,717,204) = 92 percent.
2) U. S. Census Scope (Scroll to bottom of page.)
3) “California’s Changing Demographics at-a-Glance,” Associated Press/ San Francisco Chronicle , Nov. 23, 2005
4) Otis L. Graham, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, author of several books on immigration, most recently Unguarded Gates: A History of America’s Immigration Crisis, has written an extraordinary essay on the 1965 legislation, “A Vast Social Experiment: The Immigration Act of 1965” (5,000 words). One comes away from Graham’s account with an appreciation for the Law of Unintended Consequences and for Theodore White’s 1982 assessment of the legislation: noble, revolutionary, and thoughtless. The 1965 legislation was of noble intent: When the idea of abolishing the national origins quota system was introduced by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, he urged Congress to repeal a policy that “discriminates among applicants for admission into the U.S. on the basis of the accident of birth.” The 1965 legislation was revolutionary: Few expected immigration to significantly increase and no one realized that the chain migration ensured by the family reunification provisions heavily favored countries of origin of recent immigrants - that is countries of Latin America and Asia - and discriminates against European countriies. And the legislation was thoughtless: “...the reformers had not given much thought to the system they were putting in place...” 
5) The dissenting opinion on Plyler v. Doe , authored by Chief Justice Warren Burger for himself and for Justices Byron White and William Rehnquist, reveals the nature of the Court majority’s action:
The Court makes no attempt to disguise that it is acting to make up for Congress’ lack of “effective leadership” in dealing with the serious national problems caused by the influx of uncountable millions of illegal aliens across our borders . . . However, it is not the function of the Judiciary to provide “effective leadership” simply because the political branches of government fail to do so. [Note: Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution states that Congress shall have the power to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Not the Court.]
6) Judge Pfaelzer’s final ruling did not come until 1998. There were notable early celebrants: “187 was the last gasp of White America in California.” (Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party, 1995-2009. Listen to one-minute Real-Audio clip)
Tom Shuford is a retired public school teacher living in Lenoir, North Carolina. This article originally appeared in in June, 2007.
Tom Shuford
2011 May 12