Education is a right for children in the United States, but a group in California wants to make sure it only applies to American citizens.
Joseph Turner, a former resident of San Bernardino, who now lives in Torrance, plans to circulate a petition in the Yucaipa-Mesa Joint Unified School District for a ballot measure that would decide whether undocumented children should be allowed to attend K-12 schools in the area.
Turner said he believes that American-born children of illegal immigrants can attend school but at the cost of a "nonresident" tuition. He filed a notice of intent with the San Bernardino County Register this week.
Turner has been an advocate of immigration policy reform for years, but previous attempts at restricting access to jobs and houses for undocumented individuals did not rally the public support needed to move forward into policy. However, the mainstream racism and xenophobia President Donald Trump has ushered in has emboldened Turner to try again, this time for the children.
He founded the one-month-old organization American Children First in order to push what they refer to as an "anti-illegal immigration" agenda that covers free trade and education. The goal is to first establish themselves by reforming a small school district and then take their initiatives nationwide.
"We can no longer subjugate the education and future of our children," Turner wrote in the filing to San Bernardino. "We will no longer take care of those who have broken our laws and seek to prosper at the expense of our children."
American Children First has set their sights on the Yucaipa-Mesa Joint Unified School District for one major reason: It's located in the Inland Empire, which votes predominately red.
"Trump did very well [in the Inland Empire] and I'm hoping the audience will be receptive," Turner told the LA Times.
According to the San Benardino County Elections Office, nearly 60 percent of Yucaipa's over 22,000 registered voters cast their ballot for Trump. If there was ever a place in California for Turner to find his audience, this area would be it. With only 3,200 signatures needed for the measure to make it on the ballot, he may stand a chance of seeing his heartless ideas materialize in the form of policy.
The approach of Turner and American Children First to immigration reform falls well in line with the policies of the Trump administration. Their intent is almost entirely punitive and to make already-vulnerable populations even more defenseless. It is not policy informed by humanity, but by bigotry and the misconception that immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are the reason behind America's failings.
"I think we have a lot of fake Americans in Sacramento that say they are for educating all children," said Turner. "But what they really mean is they're for compromising the education that American citizens receive so that we can pay for illegal aliens."
Some "fake Americans" certainly have instituted some crucial state policy that stands ready to challenge Turner. His initiative, while heartless, is not original and shares many similarities with Proposition 187, a bill which banned public benefits from those in the country illegally. Although it was voted into effect in 1994, it was ultimately declared unconstitutional.
There is a Supreme Court case that would also stand in the way, should Turner's initiative make it onto the ballot and meet approval from voters. Plyler vs. Doe was a 1982 decision that struck down a statute in Texas that cut K-12 education for anyone who was not a U.S. citizen. Sound familiar?
Cali Binks, another "fake American" and superintendent of the Yucaipa-Mesa School District, told the LA Times that the district does not discriminate against any of its students that may be here illegally and that they don't plan to change their stance while the proposed resolution goes through the necessary motions.
"We have a very tight knit community," explained Binks, "and we care for everybody."
It's a markedly different sentiment than that expressed by Turner and his constituents, and let's hope it keeps all children in school.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user Isabelle Acatauassu Alves Almeida