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Curmudgucation: Heritage Foundation Versus Immigrant Children

The Heritage Foundation is the outfit behind all manner of far-right baloney. These days they're most notable for dropping big bucks to create Project 2025, the right wing Cliff's Notes for the next Trump Presidency (including dismantling education). 

In February, Heritage released a brief (with fewer dollars and a smaller audience, we'd just call it a blog post) arguing that undocumented immigrant children should be charged tuition to attend US public schools. 

It comes, of course, with a large helping of Joe Biden Let All The Illegals In, a disingenuous baloney argument. Immigration has been a problem for a few decades now, and no administration has addressed it with anything resembling success. So every four years or so we get sudden squawking from folks on the right, from the xenophobic racist rants of Trump to the old "Well, if they would just come in legally" argument. New rule: you can only use that If Only argument if you can describe what that actually involves. Also, you can only add "like my ancestors" if you know what your ancestors did to enter "legally" (spoiler alert: it was probably "show up"). 

Plyler v. Doe was the SCOTUS decision that in 1982 declared that children could not be denied an education because of their immigration status. The Heritage Foundation speculates that their tuition plan would prompt a legal challenge which would in turn give them a chance to bring Plyler before the current Supreme Court, who might overturn it because of course they would. Chalkbeat talked to Patricia Gandara at UCLA's graduate school of education, who says this more likely just to be an election year stunt, like the infamous immigrant caravan that often threatens the US just before election time, and then never quite appears. 

Undocumented immigrants in schools fits in with the scarcity mentality, arguing that Those People are draining our American resources. That argument fails to note that plenty of undocumented migrant workers pay taxes, but because of their status rarely extract services. But it certainly strikes a chord with folks who don't want to pay for the education of any children but their own.

We could get into the question of whether immigrants (documented or not) are a net plus for the country (spoiler alert: they are), but let's focus on the real issue here, which is education for children. 

Education. For. Children.

This is the ultimate expression of some of certain worst people, the idea that "I should not have to pay for an education for Other People's Children." It is the narrow, confused idea that an education is a narrow benefit only for the children involved, as if living in a country with an educated population is not a benefit for everyone.

Michael Petrilli, head honcho of the right-tilted Fordham Institute (and with whom I disagree on so many things), actually had an absolute on-point tweet about this Heritage idea today. Spinning off Cardinal Hickey's old line about why Catholic schools serve certain populations, Petrilli tweeted.

Likewise, we don't educate migrant children because they are American, but because we are American.

Damn straight. This is informed by a larger truth--that how we treat other people says far more about us than about them. The Heritage Foundation ought to be embarrassed to be saying this about themselves. 


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Peter Greene

Peter Greene has been a high school English teacher in Northwest Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He blogs at Curmudgucation. ...