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Should Undocumented Students Be Allowed to Attend Public School?

Anti-immigration rhetoric has recently taken a bizarre turn to targeting children, with a flood of statements about the possibility of denying citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants. The latest push comes in the form of opposition to 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plyer v. Doe — which allows children of illegal immigrants access to public education.

Kim Reynolds, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Iowa, said undocumented children should not be allowed access to public education, The Iowa Independent reported today:

Reynolds was asked about immigration policy while attending the annual Latino Heritage Festival in Des Moines. Her running mate, former Gov. Terry Branstad, recently told WHO-AM’s Jan Mickelson that the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plyer v. Doe­ — which said the children of illegal immigrants must be allowed access to public education — should be overturned.

While discussing the issue on Saturday, Reynolds said she agrees with Branstad’s position but would not go as far as to say that they would act directly against the law as it stands if they are elected this fall.

Colorado gubernatorial candidate — and harsh opponent of illegal immigration — Tom Tancredo took his opposition even further. He said last week that if elected he would try to bring the issue back to the Supreme Court by denying public education to undocumented children.

Right now, the right of children to attend school is protected by Supreme Court precedent, and in New York, schools were discouraged last week from asking any question related to documentation. Immigrants rights advocates also argue denying education to students is morally wrong and would have negative consequences for society as a whole. There are about 1.1 million undocumented children living in the U.S., according to estimates from Pew Hispanic Center, and educating them unquestionably uses taxpayer funds. But many illegal immigrants do pay taxes, although it’s difficult to determine to what extent.

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