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No Changes Advocated In Schools' Handling Of Illegal Immigrants

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The first report from a federal immigration panel argues that states educating large numbers of undocumented aliens deserve federal aid--once more reliable cost estimates can be produced.

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform did not suggest upending the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires schools to educate students regardess of immigration status, as a ballot measure in California seeks to do.

In presenting the report Sept. 30, the commission's chairwoman, former U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan, denounced "the hostility towards immigrants that we find emerging in so many public and private debates today."

But the panel recommended beefing up patrols along the U.S.-Mexican border and supported a controversial computerized worker-verification system.

While the panel recommended immediate federal aid to states to pay for incarceration of illegal aliens, it suggested that school aid be delayed until there are more reliable counts of undocumented students and more accurate estimates of the cost of educating them.

Experts estimate that between 300,000 and 600,000 undocumented aliens attend public schools.

Estimates At Odds

The diversity of opinion on these questions was illustrated in a study released last month by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies. The center estimated that in 1992, legal and illegal immigrants produced a net national deficit of $29.1 billion. It set the cost of providing K-12 education and school lunches at about $13 billion.

Its analysis was based on a comparison of two other studies.

A report released earlier last month by the Urban Institute suggested that immigration produces a net benefit of $28.7 billion because of immigrants' economic contribution. It set the cost of educating immigrant children in the seven most heavily affected states at $3.1 billion in 1993. (See Education Week, Sept. 21, 1994.)

The other study, by a Rice University professor, Donald Huddle, estimated a $42 billion net deficit, setting the 1993 cost of educating immigrants--from kindergarten through college--at $33.4 billion.

The federal commission will make its next report in 1997. (See Education Week, Sept. 14, 1994.)

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