Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Nebraska 1923 Revisited

Just to prove that history does repeat itself, check out this 1923 Supreme Court decision invalidating a Nebraska law that forbid the teaching of German.

Here's what the lower court had said was the reason for the law:
The salutary purpose of the statute is clear. The Legislature had seen the baneful effects of permitting foreigners, who had taken residence in this country, to rear and educate their children in the language of their native land. The result of that condition was found to be inimical to our own safety. To allow the children of foreigners, who had emigrated here, to be taught from early childhood the language of the country of their parents was to rear them with that language as their mother tongue. It was to educate them so that they must always think in that language, and, as a consequence, naturally inculcate in them the ideas and sentiments foreign to the best interests of this country. The statute, therefore, was intended not only to require that the education of all children be conducted in the English language, but that, until they had grown into that language and until it had become a part of them, they should not in the schools be taught any other language. The obvious purpose of this statute was that the English language should be and become the mother tongue of all children reared in this state. [citations omitted]

And, here's what the Supreme Court said in reversing the Nebraska court on constitutional grounds:
The desire of the Legislature to foster a homogeneous people with American ideals prepared readily to understand current discussions of civic matters is easy to appreciate. Unfortunate experiences during the late war and aversion toward every character of truculent adversaries were certainly enough to quicken that aspiration. But the means adopted, we think, exceed the limitations upon the power of the state and conflict with rights assured to plaintiff in error. The interference is plain enough and no adequate reason therefor in time of peace and domestic tranquility has been shown. ... As the statute undertakes to interfere only with teaching which involves a modern language, leaving complete freedom as to other matters, there seems no adequate foundation for the suggestion that the purpose was to protect the child's health by limiting his mental activities. It is well known that proficiency in a foreign language seldom comes to one not instructed at an early age, and experience shows that this is not injurious to the health, morals or understanding of the ordinary child.

Every period of immigration has resulted in the same cycle of fear, ultimately unnecessary and ham-handed attempts at forced assimilation, and legislative isolationism.

As Santayana said: Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

What's next ... shall we repeat the experience with internment of the Japanese?

How many more apologies will future Virginia legislatures need to offer?

"We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future." George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Undocumented Students and In-State Tuition

In his new role as blogger turned press flak for the Republican Party of Virginia, Sean Kenney is "posting" press releases up daily that attack various Democrats for their votes, particularly on immigration related issues.

So, let's examine one of the votes that he flogged the media with this week ... David Marsden's vote on HB 2623, Jack Reid's bill to deny undocumented students the opportunity to prove on a case by case basis whether they can meet the standard for in-state tuition.

Let's begin by adding a few facts to the hot rhetorical mix:

1) under current law no one can qualify for in state tuition without proving that they are domiciled in Virginia; see, the Code Section here.

And, the many pages of regulations, starting here.

2) Very few if any undocumented children can meet the current legal and regulatory standard.

So, what would the bill that Marsden voted against do?

It would deny any child who is undocumented the chance to prove that he/she can meet the same eligibility standards for in state tuition as are applied to anyone else.

One young woman who testified in committee against the bill, has a work permit, is paying state taxes (as are her parents) and has lived in Virginia most all of her life. Yet, because she is still in the process of adjusting her status (papers were filed years ago; there was a fraud committed against the family by someone purporting to offer immigration services), under Reid's bill she couldn't even apply to be considered for in-state tuition.

And, for all you guys worried about in-state tuition and slots for Virginia taxpayers ... while this young woman, who is a Virginia taxpayer, was waiting to testify, she had to sit through more than an hour of committee discussion of the many ways that they are changing the law to allow military dependents, (who do not pay Virginia taxes and whose parents choose to have their tax home elsewhere and do not pay Virginia taxes) to qualify automatically for in-state status.

I support the troops and military wives and families, but as a military brat whose father CHOSE to keep his tax home in another state when I was in high school in Virginia, I have no sympathy for those in the military who want the benefit of our Virginia colleges at in-state rates but refuse to become state taxpayers. It wasn't a privilege offered to me when I graduated from high school in Virginia nor did I think that it should be.

Voting against Reid's bill doesn't do anything but preserve the status quo which is simply this:

Everyone living in Virginia has the same opportunity to prove that they are in-state residents on the same standards as everyone else (military families excepted). Very few, if any, undocumented students will be able to meet this standard and there is little evidence that any have done so in the past.

So, the bill Marsden voted against is nothing more than a campaign inspired, do nothing message bill, and we all know what the message was.

Marsden and others were right to vote no.