Hispanics decry House bill
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
3/16/10 at 4:15 AM
A bill that would require Oklahoma public schools to verify the immigration status of all students and report it to the state Department of Education drew fire from Tulsa Hispanic leaders Monday as well as criticism from Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard.
"I don't think it's wise to make schools responsible for gathering that kind of information," Ballard said. "It would be a huge undertaking and detract from our mission, which is to teach kids."
Earlier in the day, representatives of the Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said the measure, House Bill 3384, by Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, would create an unfunded mandate for already-strapped schools and is a step toward shutting illegal immigrants out of public education.
"The American people have always regarded education as a matter of supreme importance and a primary vehicle for transmitting American values," chamber spokesman Mario Lizana said. "By denying undocumented students a basic education, we deny them the ability to live within civic institutions and structure and foreclose the possibility they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of this state."
Terrill denied that HB 3384 would infringe on any child's access to public education or that its cost to schools would be significant. He said his only purpose is gathering accurate information about the cost of educating illegal immigrant children.
"Certainly, some schools are gathering this information already," Terrill said.
In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prevented Texas public schools from barring illegal immigrants. The court said the law imposed a penalty against children who had little or no control over their immigration status.
The majority opinion also stated that barring illegal immigrants from public schools likely would lead to "the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates."
Terrill said he has no firm plans for using the data that would be collected by the schools. He did say, however, that he expects the data to show the cost of educating illegal immigrants to be "stunningly high."
Such figures could be helpful in a challenge of the 1982 decision, which was based in part on the court's finding that Texas had not proved that a "substantial interest" would be served by excluding illegal immigrant children from public schools.
Terrill also denied that schools would become extensions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, something opponents of the bill believe is suggested by a section that says disclosure of information about individual students is forbidden "except for purposes permitted pursuant to 8 U.S.C., Sections 1373 and 1644."
Those sections of federal law deal with the exchange of immigration information between state and federal officials.
Terrill said his bill "does not change federal immigration law," but he stopped short of saying federal agencies could not demand individual student information.
"There is some basis by which (federal authorities) can access that information on a very limited basis now," he said.
University of Tulsa immigration law expert Elizabeth McCormick said, "My reading of that section is that it prohibits public disclosure of personally identifying information but would not prohibit disclosure of that information to federal immigration authorities, whether or not the information was requested by a federal agency."
Randy Krehbiel 581-8365
Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Vice Chairman Ed Martinez Jr. speaks at a press conference Monday at the Tulsa Press Club against House Bill 3384, which would require schools to determine the citizenship of students. Behind him are Eduardo Mora (from left), Marvin Lizama, Yolanda Charney and Nancy Day. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World