Thumbnail image for frowning child 2.jpgA recent televised debate revealed an immigration fault line within the GOP. Texas Governor Rick Perry’s many challengers for the Republican presidential nomination railed against his decision to extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented college students, brought to the U.S. as children, who graduate from the Lone Star State’s high schools. His initial reply:

“If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.”

The line stung many conservative “activists [who] hear ‘you have no heart’ as a dog whistle for ‘you people are racist,’ which obviously enrages them,” according to Steven Duffield, a former staffer to Sen. John Kyl who oversaw the writing of the 2008 Republican platform.  Within days Perry, while still defending the Texas tuition law, apologized:  “I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate.”

The relevant questions are not really whether conservatives lack the same missing anatomical feature as the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz or whether racism drives opposition to college tuition support for children brought to America illegally by their parents.  Rather, the fundamental issue is whether a legitimate principle animates the opposition. 

One voice reliably opposed to immigration, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which claims to espouse “low-immigration, pro-immigrant policies,” suggests that we need to get beyond “weepy sentimentality” and instead focus on hard-headed realism:  

The case of in-state tuition for illegal aliens who arrived here as children is a case in point. These are clearly the most sympathetic illegal immigrants, which is why advocates have been exploiting their stories in the quest for a general amnesty.

Our hearts tell us to make accommodation for children who were brought here illegally at a very young age and who know no other country (in-state tuition specifically is just a stalking horse for amnesty for these young people in the form of the so-called DREAM Act). That is a noble and proper sentiment.

But our heads tell us that all amnesties reward lawbreaking and serve to attract more illegal immigration. It is for this reason that amnesties must be avoided and why the push for “comprehensive immigration reform” has failed repeatedly, and will continue to fail.

Curiously, however, Krikorian and others of like mind did not repeat that “all amnesties reward lawbreaking,” when the Internal Revenue Service decided this month to waive interest, penalties and audit exposure, and accept only one-tenth of the employment taxes otherwise owed by employers who participate in its “Voluntary Settlement Classification Program.” Known as the VSCP, the program is an amnesty for businesses that may have wilfully treated employees as independent contractors, thereby avoiding Social Security contributions and taxes.  Nor did Krikorkian and his ilk object when the IRS twice granted wealthy tax cheats amnesty in the form of immunity from civil and criminal prosecution who voluntarily revealed the existence of untaxed off-shore bank accounts and paid back taxes.

When scofflaws flout their tax obligations yet are thrice forgiven by the IRS, Krikorian ought to be complaining to high heaven that federal coffers are unjustly deprived of needed revenue and that these tax amnesties “serve to attract more illegal” behavior.  His CIS colleague, Steven Camarota, has certainly shown no reluctance to allege (no matter how inaccurately) that undocumented immigrants hurt law-abiding taxpayers, but is likewise reticent when IRS announces serial amnesties that benefit businesses and the wealthy and make fools of law-abiding Americans who comply with the tax laws.

On a scale of culpability, tax cheats line up nearer to mobster Al Capone, convicted of federal tax evasion, whereas DREAMers, who want no more than to gain a college education, are truly innocent and should be shown “hospitality” because we may well thereby be entertaining “angels unawares.”  Instead, the federal government repeatedly forgives tax violators with nary a peep heard from the anti-amnesty crowd.

Even more alarming, this week a federal judge, appointed by Republican President George H. W. Bush, upheld portions of a vile Alabama law that requires schools to investigate the immigration status of kindergarten through 12th grade students, notwithstanding the 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision which struck down a Texas statute barring undocumented immigrant children from primary and secondary school.  In recalling Plyler, a Washington Post editorial, “Targeting Schoolchildren,” zeroed in on the damage that legislatively inscribed hatred of the other (and their children) will cause:  

In turning the schools into immigration registrars, Alabama’s new law flies in the face of good sense and settled law. The Supreme Court has specifically prohibited such registration schemes by the states aimed at immigrants, legal or illegal. And, in a ruling almost 20 years ago, it conferred on undocumented students an unfettered right to a public education through high school.

The court did so for sensible reasons. It noted that there is no legal precedent in America for punishing children for the actions of their parents. Writing for the court in a 1982 decision squashing Texas’s attempt to exclude illegal immigrants from public schools, Justice William Brennan said, “It is difficult to understand precisely what the State hopes to achieve by promoting the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime.”

Apparently, Alabama didn’t get the message. By forcing schools to collect and report data on the immigration status of students and their parents, the state will frighten kids away from attending school.

True to form, CIS heralded the Alabama ruling

This decision further helps the legal landscape, generally speaking, for states and localities beating open-borders and leftist warfare by litigation. It improves the prospects of other laws recently enacted in other states withstanding vicious legal attacks.

CIS is quick to bandy the “open borders” epithet (I’ve been falsely dubbed an “open borders type” in a CIS blog post last summer).  But this self-styled “non-partisan” screed-poster that accuses opponents of the anti-kids Alabama law as “leftist,” and Republican presidential contenders who oppose DREAMers, ought to wake up and realize that the biblical remonstration to “suffer the children” did not mean to torment them.