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Thursday, March 30, 2006

OEMR - Open Borders, Open Schools 

In the past, this blog has touched upon issues in which a government passes an immoral law, and a Christian must decide whether or not to obey it. The classic example of such a law can be found in Daniel 6, a case in which Daniel knowing violated a law that he believed was immoral, and was therefore subject to the consequences imposed by the government authorities.

One of the arguments against current U.S. immigration law in general, and the new House bill in particular, is that it is immoral:

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio led a special hearing on immigration issues at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights July 19....

"We come here today to hear from those who are affected by a morass of laws which are ineffective, inefficient and immoral," said Bishop DiMarzio in his opening statement to a standing-room-only crowd.

"We need to be open to rethinking our whole immigration system based on reality," continued the bishop, a longtime advocate of immigration reform and a member of the Global Commission on International Migration. He also is chairman of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. and former chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration.

"This issue will not go away. While many may condemn the presence of undocumented immigrants in our land, we willingly accept their hard labor, their contributions to our economy, and their cultural and religious spirit which enriches our local communities," Bishop DiMarzio said. "Most of them come here to give their children a better life. If they had a means to come here legally, every one of them would do so."

This was part of the thinking that motivated the huge rally that was held in downtown Los Angeles. During the Saturday rally, the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, addressed the crowd:

There are no illegals here today. The only thing that would be illegal is a law that would demonize and criminalize 11 million people. We come together to say that we are workers, not criminals.

In other words, Villaraigosa and the other sponsors of the rally believed that it was not illegal for people to enter the United States without going through channels, and that if peope had to jump fences and swim rivers, so be it. If the law said that people who weren't allowed in the United States had to remain in their own countries, and that they shouldn't jump fences, too bad.

But then things began to hit close to home. Mayor Villaraigosa, who has expressed an interest in reforming the Los Angeles United School District by bringing it under his direct control, could not help but notice that the protests didn't end when the weekend was over. From Pasadena Weekly:

Then on Monday — Cesar Chavez Day in California — thousands of high school students in Pasadena, Glendale and Los Angeles walked out of class to voice opposition to the House-approved bill, which would have local police shoulder the burden of immigration law and expand detention centers to hold more than 30,000 new non-citizen detainees.

“If they pass this law, it’s going to affect everybody,” said Glendale High School student Jessica Garcia, 15, who joined hundreds of teens in swarming Glendale City Hall for more than an hour.

Carrying both American and Mexican flags, the students made a point of announcing immigrant families as an essential part of the community, at times chanting “USA! USA!” and “Hell, no. We won’t go!”

In Pasadena, hundreds of mostly Latino students filed out of John Muir High School that morning and marched to Pasadena Unified School District headquarters.

Students later also left Blair High School to join the march....

In Echo Park at Belmont High School, where most students are Latino, the halls were virtually empty by mid-Monday, according to reports from staff inside the school.

“I marched because what they are doing is not fair for immigrants. I marched because of my family,” said Belmont freshman Benjamin Rivera, who was born in El Salvador.

On Tuesday, as more student protests erupted in South Los Angeles, LA Unified schools went on temporary lockdown....

And so many students left Grant High School in Van Nuys that parts of Burbank and Laurel Canyon boulevards were virtually shut down, said LA City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel....

Mayor Vilaraigosa, who had a number of student protestors at his doorstep, tried to encourage them to go back to school. His call went unheeded:

[Villaraigosa] aspires to run Los Angeles schools, and as such can hardly champion skipping class. And he covets a national reputation of leadership, a claim that requires him to rise above his own past as a student activist, to show maturity even in the face of a protest whose message he endorses and to demonstrate that he is not captive to ethnic politics or limited to left-wing views.

He got that opportunity Monday afternoon, when he told students he shared their opposition to an immigration bill pending in Congress but wanted them to go back to school; they booed, refused to leave and chanted in defiance. "Hell no, we won't go," they called out, yelling over the mayor's attempts to speak.

Still, Villaraigosa had his moment.

"Somebody's got to be a grown-up," he said Tuesday, reflecting on the turn of events that had placed him on the receiving end of an angry student group even though Villaraigosa himself participated in a historic student walkout in 1968. "As a father, I would want my kids to go back to school."

After a couple of days of truancy, the Los Angeles Unified School District issued this letter:

Los Angeles Unified School District

Dear Parent/Guardian:

During the past several days there have been a series of student walkouts during the
school day to protest recent proposed immigration legislation. Although we support
students’ right to voice their opinion, when students leave school without permission, they are in violation of District policy and compulsory attendance laws. Section 48200 of the Education Code states: “that each person who is between the ages of six and eighteen years and not otherwise exempted…is subject to compulsory full-time education…”

In addition to the Education Code, the Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County have
strict loitering ordinances. These ordinances prohibit any person under the age of
eighteen and subject to compulsory school attendance from loitering in or upon the public streets, highways, roads, alley, parks, playgrounds, or other public grounds between the hours of 8:30a.m. and 1:30p.m. on days when school is in session. Students who violate these ordinances may receive a citation, have to appear in court with their parent/guardian, have a fine imposed by the court, and risk having their driver’s license withheld.

Activities have been planned at each school to provide students with an opportunity to express their concerns and opinions. Teachers have received instructional materials to also help students understand the current events regarding immigration.

Please be advised that students who leave campus without permission are defying school rules and District policy and will be subject to disciplinary consequences. In addition, students who are not in school and absent without a valid excuse will be issued a loitering citation by law enforcement agencies. We are requesting your support in ensuring that your child attends school for the entire school day and, if interested, take advantage of school based activities to voice their viewpoint on this and other relevant current events occurring in the community. If you have further questions, feel free to contact your child’s school.

So people who say it's OK to violate U.S. law, jump national fences, and look for work on the streets (and who also want no restrictions on the issuing of driver's licenses) are being criticized for breaking city/county laws, jumping school fences, and hanging out on city streets; plus, they may lose their driver's licenses in the bargain.

Of course, Villaraigosa and other would argue that the immigration laws are immoral, but the school attendance and loitering laws are not. Oh yeah?

Although California school districts are making progress by passing inclusive non-discrimination policies, there are far too many school districts still not in compliance with California law, according to the first in a series of Safe Schools Research Briefs that the California Safe Schools Coalition is releasing in 2006. The District Policies and Trainings Research Brief reveals that 94 percent of school districts report having a policy specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, only 40 percent of districts have policies that prohibit harassment based on gender identity, appearance or behavior. This means that 60 percent of school districts are in direct violation of California law.

And another example of the alleged immorality of the California public school system:

We are in a crisis: the California Unified Public School system needs a complete overhaul. Our high school students are not passing the exit exam....

Ninety percent of disabled students, 26,400, are not passing their exit exams, while 75% of African American students, 41,000, and 65% of Latino American students, 32,000, are also not passing their exams--a whopping 90,000 students in California....

The results are different for Asian Americans and White Americans-- 75% of Asian Americans passed the test, while 70% of white students passed. Something must be very wrong with California's education system to have these despairing and different numbers.

And let's turn to loitering, which has its defenders:

Loafing and loitering, the Supreme Court said 31 years ago, are among the "amenities of life" that make America great.

Even though they are not mentioned in the Constitution, the justices agreed, "These unwritten amenities have been in part responsible for giving our people the feeling of independence and self-confidence, the feeling of creativity. These amenities have dignified the right of dissent and have honored the right to be nonconformists and the right to defy submissiveness. They have encouraged lives of high spirits rather than hushed, suffocating silence."

So one can easily make an argument that it's immoral to compel a person of color to go to a school that won't educate him or her anyway, and that it's immoral and unconstitutional to restrict one's freedom by anti-loitering statutes (although the Supreme Court has had a variety of decisions on this particular issue).

So why is it OK to cross the border illegally, but it's not OK to skip school? To answer that question, follow the money. When a city has to provide services to illegal immigrants, it can get money for these services from state and Federal governments, so more illegal immigration is perversely a good thing (although the localities don't get sufficient monies to provide the services). However, when students skip school, the locality loses money. Here's what the Los Angeles schools lost:

LAUSD spokeswoman Stephanie Brady said roughly 8,500 students walked out of schools in protest, a sharp drop from the 27,000 who marched on Monday. The district could lose $28.60 in state education funding for each of them, a total of just over $1 million for the two days.

And that's just LAUSD. Other government agencies lost money, and there were also non-quantifiable losses to education and emergency services:

Santa Ana Unified, which recorded 4,277 absences for its middle and high schools Monday and Tuesday, could lose about $120,000.

The Long Beach Unified School District estimated that about 3,000 students were absent for all or a portion of the school day Monday and Tuesday, said spokesman Chris Eftychiou, who added that the district could lose as much as $85,000.

The effect was not only financial, he added: There was also the disruption to instruction.

"There are only so many days in the year…. Each day in class is precious," he said.

The LAPD, on tactical alert for the protests, had to pay officers overtime and pull them off normal duties, which meant some calls went unanswered, Lt. Paul Vernon said.

"When we go on tactical alert, we stop answering nonemergency calls," he said. "So when someone calls about, say, a suspicious man, we are not responding."

This leads one to the sneaking suspicion that if schools receive flat rate funding from the state, there wouldn't be this huge effort to get the students back into school.

On the other hand, if the Federal and state governments absolutely refused to pay for services to illegal aliens, you'd suspect that Villaraigosa would be demanding that a Berlin Wall be built on the U.S.-Mexican border.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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