Monday, April 25, 2005

Education for children of illegal immigrants

There's a nice editorial in today's Kansas City Star about an upcoming court case that will decide if children of illegal immigrants can receive in-state tuition rates in Kansas. The author argues that the children should not be punished for their parents' lawbreaking. It's something I hadn't thought about before. Find it here (and go to for a login).

Here's a sample:

Kansas is well known for a legal battle in which it argued that some children do not deserve access to a public education.

More than 50 years after Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education, Kansas is preparing to do legal battle again – in support of the children of illegal immigrants.

This time, Kansas is on the right side of the argument.

Recall in Brown that Kansas fought to keep its schools segregated. The Supreme Court settled that one. This latest fight isn't likely to go that far.

Eight other states are like Kansas. The states had the foresight to offer the children of illegal immigrants the ability to pay in-state college tuition fees, rather than the sometimes three times higher out-of-state rates. At least seven other states are also considering similar legislation.

The lower in-state rate makes college financially feasible for these students, most of whom are poor. How society treats the children of illegal immigrants is a sideline issue of immigration reform. The children did not choose their plight.

Yet some argue that they should pay for their parents' mistakes. They say offering the children the opportunity to pay for college is akin to "rewarding illegal behavior."

If that rationale were extended to other criminals, the educational opportunities of all children with a parent convicted of a crime would be taken away. No one proposes that solution because it is illogical. Immigrant children are simply an easier target.

Among the lawyers who will argue for Kansas at a hearing May 10 is the man who laid the legal groundwork to get these children a kindergarten-through-12th-grade education, Peter Roos. In 1982, Mr. Roos successfully won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plyler vs. Doe, a case based in Texas.

In Plyler, the court found it unfair to sentence undocumented children to "a lifetime of hardship" by denying them the opportunity of an education because of something their parents did. The same argument could be made for the Kansas children. As Mr. Roos says, this case is for "the Plyler children come of age."
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