White House Sought Ways to Block Undocumented Immigrant Children From Attending Public Schools

Sigh…:

Some top aides to President Donald Trump sought for months for a way to give states the power to block undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools — all part of the administration’s efforts to stem illegal crossings at the southern U.S. border.

Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller had been a driving force behind the effort as early as 2017, pressing cabinet officials and members of the White House Domestic Policy Council repeatedly to devise a way to limit enrollment, according to several people familiar with the matter. The push was part of a menu of ideas on immigration that could be carried out without congressional approval.

Ultimately, they abandoned the idea after being told repeatedly that any such effort ran afoul of a 1982 Supreme Court case guaranteeing access to public schools. But the consideration of denying hundreds of thousands of children access to education illustrates the breadth of the White House’s push to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

The strategy echoed the aim of a new rule the administration announced earlier this week that could block immigrants from becoming legal permanent residents if they’ve used government benefits. Any immigrant who had used Medicaid, public housing assistance or food stamps for more than 12 months over a 36-month period can be denied permanent resident status under the new rule.

The so-called public charge rule has sparked outrage among Democrats, who say it’s cruel. They have criticized Trump on a range of immigration policies, including a plan he announced last month to force Central American migrants to file for asylum in Guatemala instead of the U.S., a measure advocacy groups said would put their lives at risk. The debate over immigration is all but certain to play a central role in the 2020 elections.

A senior administration official, who requested anonymity when asked to comment on the story, dismissed accounts of Miller’s initiative as gossip from disgruntled bureaucrats but declined to identify any specific inaccuracy. The official also said undocumented immigrants placed an enormous strain on social services, including school districts.

Public Services

Starting in late 2017, Miller pressed hard to find a way to limit undocumented immigrants’ access to public services, including education, according to the people.

That effort included consideration last year of a guidance memo issued by the Education Department that would tell states they had the option to refuse students with an undocumented status to attend public schools from kindergarten through high school. A memo was never issued.

Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said: “The memo wasn’t issued because the secretary would never consider it.”

The White House’s push was dropped because members of the administration determined the plan could violate Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 Supreme Court case that prohibited states from denying free public education based on their immigration status.

The court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that denying migrant children an education would “foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our nation” and that punishing them for their parents’ actions “does not comport with fundamental conceptions of justice.”

‘Punish Little Kids’

Immigration activists said they were alarmed the White House would consider a policy change targeting migrant children.

“Such a radical policy change would be unlawful, unacceptable and un-American,” said Frank Sharry, who runs the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice. “The notion that we should punish little kids who go to school and pledge allegiance to our flag because Trump and Miller want to make America white again is incredibly cruel, dark and sinister.”

The president in May said he was concerned that abuse of the asylum system “strains our public school systems” and used funds that should go to American citizens.

“We’re using the funds that should be going to them,” Trump said. “And that shouldn’t happen. And it’s not going to happen in a very short period of time.”

During the presidency of Barack Obama, immigration rights groups raised concern about that schools systems were making it too hard for children to enroll by imposing rigid documentation requirements. In response, the administration issued guidance to school administrators to be more flexible in the documents they accept.

Residency Documents

The 2014 guidance said schools should accept utility bills or leases as substitute proof of residency after reports that some districts were demanding driver’s licenses or Social Security cards that could be unattainable for those in the country illegally.

“Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,” then-Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement at the time.

Congress also attempted to pass legislation in 1996 that would have allowed states to block public education benefits to undocumented children or charge tuition, but the effort failed when former President Bill Clinton threatened to veto the bill.

Around 725,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade students in U.S. public and private schools in 2014 were unauthorized to be in the country, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. That amounts to about 1.3% of total school enrollment.

The U.S. Census bureau said earlier this year that the cost spent by per pupil on elementary and secondary education was $12,201 annually, meaning spending on undocumented migrant students could exceed $8 billion annually.

Source: White House Sought Ways to Block Undocumented Immigrant Children From Attending Public Schools

Swiss deny citizenship to Muslim girls who balked at swimming with boys

Forced integration rarely works and in general a more flexible approach facilitates integration, a less flexible one strengthens exclusion.

Accommodation for separate swimming lessons appears more reasonable than for refusal to shake hands: the latter is a more fundamental matter of respect and acknowledgement of the host society and its norms:

In the latest move to deny citizenship to those who balk at Swiss culture, authorities rejected the naturalization application of two Muslim girls who refused to take school swimming lessons because boys were present.

The girls, ages 12 and 14, who live in the northern city of Basel, had applied for Swiss citizenship several months ago, but their request was denied, Swiss media reported Tuesday.

The girls, whose names were not disclosed, said their religion prevents them from participating in compulsory swimming lessons with males in the pool at the same time. Their naturalization application was rejected because the sisters did not comply with the school curriculum, Basel authorities said.

“Whoever doesn’t fulfill these conditions violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalized,” Stefan Wehrle, president of the naturalization committee, told TV station SRF on Tuesday.

The case shows how those who don’t follow Swiss rules and customs won’t become citizens, even if they have lived in the country for a long time, are fluent in one of the national languages — German, French or Italian — and are gainfully employed.

In April, members of an immigrant family in the Basel area were denied citizenship because they wore sweatpants around town and did not greet passersby — a sure sign that they were not sufficiently assimilated, the naturalization board claimed.

Another recent case sparked widespread outrage in Switzerland when two Muslim brothers refused to shake hands with their female teacher, also citing religious restrictions. Shaking hands with a teacher is a common practice in Swiss schools.

After that incident was widely publicized, authorities suspended the naturalization request from the boys’ father, an imam at the Basel mosque.

The swimming case involving the two girls is the first to deny naturalization applications for not complying with a school program, setting precedence for future cases, Wehrle said.

This is not the first time Switzerland’s Muslim community has stirred controversy over swimming lessons. In 2012, a family was fined $1,500 for forbidding their daughters to participate in swimming classes.

The matter eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which ruled that no dispensations from swimming lessons should be made on religious grounds.

In Switzerland, unlike in the United States and many other countries, integration into society is more important for naturalization than knowledge of national history or politics. Candidates for citizenship must prove that they are well assimilated in their communities and respect local customs and traditions.

In Switzerland, local town or village councils make initial decisions on naturalization applications. If they decide a candidate is not an upstanding member of the community, the application will be denied and not forwarded to canton (state) and federal authorities for further processing.

Source: Swiss deny citizenship to Muslim girls who balked at swimming with boys