3 Ways You Can Stop the GOP’s War on the Children of Undocumented Immigrants

Who could possibly hate this baby? Oh, I know -- Republicans.

Last week, I wrote a piece for Change.org entitled 3 Ways You Can Help End the GOP’s War on Undocumented Immigrants. In it, I identified three strategies that Right-wing fundies are using to wage a war on illegal immigration — by attacking the rights of their citizen children. I think this subject is so important, I’m re-summarizing the post here. Learn more about how the GOP is targeting children in their war on illegal immigration, and participate in the linked petitions:

1) Birthright Citizenship: Top Republicans from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham are calling for Congressional hearings on the 14th Amendment. Their hope? Alter the Constitution to put a caveat on birthright citizenship such that citizenship is awarded based on the citizenship status of a child’s parents. However, as I write in my post, the 14th Amendment was penned to eliminate the possibility that one group might be able to determine the citizenship — and thus the political rights — of another group. Prior to the 14th Amendment, citizenship did depend on the status of parents: the children of slaves were not considered American citizens, regardless of birthplace.

As Jeff Yang writes in his Asian Pop column this week, without the 14th Amendment, countless Asian Americans whose families entered the States as “paper sons” would find their citizenship in question today. Birthright citizenship is one of the few, unequivocably brilliant political ideas unique to North America; since its passage, it has helped ensure political and civil equality for all citizens. It’s a travesty for Republicans to even suggest dismantling the 14th Amendment.

Act Now! We need to protect the 14th Amendment from hysterical nativism. Sign this petition targeting GOP lawmakers, urging them not to attack birthright citizenship in this country.

"Being brown is not a crime."

2) The SB 1070 of Public Schools: Here in Arizona, a virtually unknown piece of legislation has snuck its way through the State Senate, and is now being held in the State House. I charitably refer to this bill — SB 1097 / HB 2382 — as the “SB 1070 of public education”. Just like SB 1070 deputizes local and state law enforcement to check the immigration papers of anyone who engages with police, SB 1097 deputizes school administrators to check the immigration papers of any child enrolled in public schools.

Why? Well, the idea is that public funds being used to educate non-citizen children costs taxpayers money, so Arizona Republicans (many of whom authored SB 1070) introduced SB 1097 to require schools to determine the number of non-citizen children enrolled as students, and to report that information to the state. Forget that in Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court determined that the state could not deny a child a public education based on immigration status.

The true effect of SB 1097 goes beyond the mean-spiritedness and misguidedness of the bill. If put into effect, SB 1097 would cause illegal immigrants to pull their children from public schools for fear of being identified and deported. But, since federal money to public schools is dependent on the number of enrolled students, this would actually cause Arizona schools to lose money. And we all know that less money means less teachers, fewer books, less extracurricular activities, and a poorer education for all of Arizona’s children.

Act Now! SB 1097 is currently being considered in the State House as HB 2382. Sign this petition addressed to the Arizona State House, urging our legislators not to pass HB 2382.

I *heart* ethnic studies, too.

3) Attacking Teachers with Accents and Banning Ethnic Studies: In Arizona, the state department of education has fired hundreds of teachers with accents, after recruiting these teachers several years ago as part of English Language Learning classes. State legislators passed HB 2281, which bans the teaching of ethnic studies in public schools. While both actions have most directly affected Spanish-speaking teachers and Chicano Studies, the impact of these policies on teachers of all races and ethnicities is obvious.

The responsibility of teachers is to help students learn, by any means necessary. Sometimes that means connecting with students through a non-English language, sometimes that means engaging students with content that they find relevant to their own lives. A thriving classroom is one that is focused on the needs of students, and that can offer learning opportunities that speak to those needs. The banning of ethnic studies and the firing of teachers with accents renders the classroom less student-focused, thereby reducing learning.

More importantly, this applies to all students, and not just Latino students. Any student who wants to learn about American history from the perspective of Chicano Studies, African American Studies or Asian American Studies cannot do so if they are enrolled in an Arizona public school. They are forced to learn about their history through the lens of only one group — that of the mainstream. Arizona has one of the largest Latino populations in the nation — how does it make sense that this diversity is not reflected in the curriculum of public school classes?

Act Now! Sadly, the ethnic studies ban has passed in the Arizona State Legislature, and the teachers with accents have been fired. However, please sign this petition urging the current candidates for Arizona School Superintendent to make a public pledge that, if elected, they will work with the Legislature to reverse the ban on ethnic studies. Hey, it’s a start…

Please share this post — and my original post over at Change.org — with your friends and families. Arizona is being used as a testing ground for divisive, misguided legislation. Already, some states are considering their own versions of SB 1070. If Arizona empowers school administrators to check immigration status or bans ethnic studies, it won’t be a question of if similar legislation appears in other states, it’ll be a question of when. We need to draw our line in the sand here.

Cross-posted: Blog for Arizona

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