Equity & Diversity

Group Wants to Ban Undocumented Students From Public Schools

By Corey Mitchell — April 05, 2017 2 min read
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The founder of an anti-immigration group wants to stop undocumented students from attending school in a southern California district, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Joseph Turner of American Children First plans to circulate a petition for a ballot measure that would outright ban undocumented students from enrolling in the 10,000-student Yucaipa-Mesa Joint Unified district and require the American-born children of undocumented immigrants to pay non-resident tuition, the newspaper reports.

Turner founded the American Children First last month, the Times reported, but he has long advocated for immigration reform policies.

“We can longer subjugate the education and future of our children,” Turner wrote in his petition filing. “We will no longer take care of those who have broken our laws and seek to prosper at the expense of our children. It is time to put American Children First.”

Turner’s campaign has strong echoes of the voter-approved Proposition 187 initiative in 1994 that sought to deny public services for undocumented immigrants living in California but was ultimately blocked by a federal court.

Yucaipa-Mesa Superintendent Cali Binks told the Times that Turner has not contacted her or members of the district school board to discuss the petition. She also said the district will not “change how it treats students in the country illegally.”

In an interview with the Times, Turner cited the words and actions of President Donald Trump, who has vowed to undertake one of the most aggressive immigration enforcement operations in modern American history, as motivation for the petition—and that he “plans to bring his initiatives to a national level by first targeting a small school district.”

Turner’s effort could face significant legal challenges.

Under the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Plyler v. Doe, children are entitled to receive a free public K-12 education in the United States regardless of their immigration status.

Another southern California school district challenged the ruling in 2000, during the Clinton administration, when the Anaheim Union High School district sought help in billing foreign countries for the cost of educating undocumented immigrant children. The federal government rejected that request.

Turner denounced the Plyler ruling in a post on the American Children First website.

“In Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court conjured up an imaginary doctrine that rewarded and encouraged continued illegal immigration by compelling the American taxpayer to sacrifice and undermine the quality of their own child’s education in the name of educating illegal aliens,” he wrote on the American Children First website.

Here’s a look at the petition.

For Further Reading

How Much Can Schools Protect Undocumented Students?

If Immigration Agents Come Knocking, Schools Must Follow These Steps

AFT President Urges Big-City Mayors to Shield Immigrant Students, Families

As Trump Weighs Fate of Immigrant Students, Schools Ponder Their Roles

Educators to Trump: ELL, Immigrant Students Need Safe, Well-Funded Schools

Educators and Advocates Brace for Harsher Stance on Immigration Under Trump

Election’s Intolerant Tone Stokes Fears for Latino Students

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.