June 12, 1996
By Yolanda Reynolds
Photo by Mary J. Andrade
On June 4, San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer, San Jose police chief Lou Cobarruviaz, Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Honda, two-county school superintendents, Linda Murray of the San Jose Unified School District and Larry Acevez Superintendent of the Franklin McKinley School District, gathered for a press conference to announce their opposition to a rider in a bill under consideration in the U.S. Congress that would deny public education to undocumented immigrant children.
The author of this bill, H.R. 2202, is Elton Gallegly, a Republican Congressman from-Southern California. The proposed legislation “authorizes States to deny public education benefits to aliens not lawfully present in the United States.” The proposed legislation was approved in Washington by the Republican dominated House of Representatives and is now in the conference committee, a process that merges the House and Senate versions of this bill on immigration reform. After the bills are reconciled, the legislation will be sent to President Clinton for his signature. The March 20, 1996 House vote was 757-163. This legislation is known in Washington as the “Immigration in Nation Interest Act.”
The press conference was intended to alert the general public to this bill and also to alert government officials in Washington that this legislation is strongly opposed in San Jose by elected officials, community leaders and educators.
Chief Cobarruviaz explained to La Oferta that many people in San Jose have come together to “keep kids in school.” He pointed out that San Jose Police officials have made it a priority to be there to help young people stay in school and out of trouble in whatever way they can, from talking to students, to tutoring or visiting classrooms. Neighborhoods and schools have asked for help from the Police and the City’s Drug Task Force in making neighborhoods and city school grounds drug free zones. Mayor Hammer has committed thousands of dollars to establish and maintain homework centers throughout the city. Many city neighborhoods have formed organizations as a way to improve the quality of life for their communities and, in particular, to try to correct the conditions that lead to problems for youth.
Cobarruviaz says, “this bill just makes no sense. It runs counter to everything we are trying to accomplish and that is to keep kids in school.” “In addition”, he says, “kids forced out into the streets can be victimized-get involved in gangs or become injured in some other way.”
Superintendent Murray explained that it would be a major burden on schools. She explained that currently students must only show that they live within the boundaries of the district.
H.R. 2202 bases its validity on the premise that, by providing free public education “for aliens who are not lawfully present in the United States promotes violations of the immigration laws” and that providing such education” creates a significant burden on States’ economies and depletes State’s limited educational resources.”
According to information from Gallegly’s office, this amendment is in “direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s finding in 1982 that the federal government had failed to provide the direction necessary to bar illegal immigrants from public school class rooms.”
Gallegly gives estimates of the cost of education, in California alone, to be $2 billion each year for undocumented students from the primary to post-secondary level. He contends that these costs in New York are $634 million, for Florida $424 million and Texas $419 million per year. He adds that an estimated $70 million last year was awarded in Pell Grants to persons “with no legal right to be in this country.”
It is not certain how he ascertained these figures since citizenship veriﬁcation has not been required in the public schools. Superintendent Murray explained that the anti-immigrant attitude as expressed by Prop 187 has had the effect of intimidating legal immigrant parents. She explained that it is “essential that parents get involved in children’s education.” The District is attempting to reach out to LEP (Limited English Proﬁcient) parents to inform them of the responsibilities and expectations of the schools, how they can help their children, how they can access the school’s services and explain the rights and responsibilities of the parents with regard to schools and their children’s education.
Mayor Hammer in her prepared statement, pointed out that House Bill 2202 “does nothing to address the problem of illegal immigration.” She speculated that the bill “is the product of an election year mentality” and added that the bill “is designed to create division among us and exploit the youngest and most vulnerable people…the children.”
Hammer added “there are no easy answers to the question of illegal immigration.”
Gallegly, Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Immigration Reform, says that he has been working on such legislative revisions for “a decade.” He is proud of a pilot program that he designed which will place INS officers at jails in his jurisdiction of Ventura County and the city of Anaheim to help identify “illegal aliens,” in order to deport them whether convicted of other crimes or not.
Among other provisions, this bill will add 1,000 new Border Patrol agents every year for the next five years. Also, criminal penalties for producing or possessing fraudulent U.S. documents would be similar to those imposed for the forgery of U.S. currency.
The provision to penalize children for the actions of their parents, however, presents a moral dilemma and will likely cause schools many problems. Among them would be a further reduction of funds as money would have diverted to verify residency status. According to Gallegly’s office this legislation does not apply to those who are U.S. citizens that were born here to illegal alien parents. His ofﬁce reports that HR 2202 applies “only to those who have physically entered the country illegally-or remain illegally on expired visas – (and therefore) could be denied beneﬁts.”
This bill is endorsed by the Republican Governor’s Association, Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the National Taxpayers Association and California Governor, Pete Wilson, among others.
If you want more information on this legislation and what you might do about it, contact Mayor Hammer’s office at 277-4237. You may leave a message for President Clinton at (202) 456-1111. Congressman Gallegly’s office may be contacted at (202) 225-5811. © La Oferta Newspaper.