Schools, Illegals, Debt Crisis–Revisit Plyler?

Many of you may not be aware that it was a Supreme Court decision almost 30 years ago that required the States to provide a free public education to illegal aliens in this country.  The case was Plyler v. Doe.  You can use your search engine to look up the case.  I encourage you to do so.  If you disagree with any of my comments then form you own but at least have them based in law and fact.  You don’t  have to be a lawyer to understand the rationale of the case.  Read it and also read the dissent by Burger.  It was a 5 to 4 decision.  The decision was very much fact based and perhaps it is time to revisit that issue anew. It is timely because of the incredible debt burdens facing the US and the individual State–California comes to mind.  The financial burden of educating or at least allowing attendance in our schools for illegal aliens is enormous.  You can find your own estimates about how many there are in California, Texas and Arizona and then multiple that number by the average cost per child for public education.  It is a staggering multi-billion dollar number each year for the respective States.

A little history about the Plyler case is in order for those not familiar with it.  As is so often the case this lawsuit was not brought by a poor down trodden  illegal Mexican against the State of Texas.  There was a liberal organization that was promoting this issue.  They picked the plaintiffs and they certainly carefully picked the court where they would file suit.  The filed before Judge William Wayne Justice.  A very, very liberal judge in the Eastern District of Texas.  He would have made a San Franciso liberal look like a right winger by comparison.  If a case before him involved a current liberal cause asserting some alleged civil right you could predict the outcome when the suit was filed.  The only issue would be how he would manipulate the facts to conform with his personal views of social needs and his view of the world.

The Plyler case does acknowledge the constitutional position that there is no right to a public education under the Constitution.  This they had to do because education is a State matter reserved to them under the 10th Amendment.  They used tortured interpretations of the 14th amendment to justify their majority opinion.  It was an equal protection of the laws case according to them.   The case recognizes that it is limited to the particular facts before the Court at that time.  The Court acknowledge that States and the US can discriminate among classes of people within their borders for legitimate and compelling reasons.  Thus illegals were denied many social welfare benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Food Stamp benefits and many others.  The distinction must be for a legitimate public purpose.  The State of Texas argued that saving huge sums of money that could then be used to improve its school system for its citizens and resident aliens was a legitimate purpose but the Supremes in their infinite wisdom said no.  They wax eloquent about their opinion that a well education population is good for society and that the children are here for reasons beyond their control because it was their parents that brought them here.  Interestingly the Supreme majority recognized that the States have a right to bar some privileges to illegals.  Specifically the States can prohibit employment of illegals because it furthers a Federal goal of stopping illegal immigration.  You might note that a few States have begun this process in the last couple of years and their illegal population has declined–see Oklahoma.

You also must be reminded that the Texas law challenged in this case did allow the illegals to attend public school; it did require them to pay the tuition to the State for this educational opportunity.  The Supreme Court blithely ignores this factor.   They do have to acknowledge that the States have the right to help enforce Federal policy for deportation of illegals and that these children are subject to deportation along with their parents under Federal law.  They ignore any comment on the fact that these kids were able to be identified for purposes of the suit as plaintiffs and thus their parents which would bring deportation which is a legitimate State purpose.  Justice Burger in his dissent notes this inconsistency.  The majority rejects the notion that saving billions of dollars is in the public interest of a State.   What more “compelling government interest” could there be in these times?  

The majority concludes by stating that if a State wishes to prohibit a public education to illegals it must justify it by “showing that it furthers some substantial State interest”.   They stated that it was not done in this particular case.  The matter is not done.  Our facts are different now than they were 30 years ago and the financial conditions of the nation and the States are certainly much different now than then.  The issue should be re-litigated with new evidence of the financial burden.   We also have a different court at the moment and it might be more receptive to the need to reduce State budgets.  I mean California can’t pay its bills. Why is it paying the bills for illegals to attend their schools. 

Please read the case for yourself.  It is another classic example of judges legislating from the bench.   Burger in his dissent makes it clear.  Just because the legislative or executive branches of government don’t perform  as some might want that does not justify the judiciary taking the role of legislative power brokers creating law them deem in the best interest of a State or the Nation.  That is why we have elections.

“The Constitution does not provide a cure for every social ill, n0r does it vest judges with a mandate to try remedy every social problem”. Lindsey v. Normet, 405 US at 74.


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Filed under Economics, Foreign Affairs, government, immigration, Politics

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