May 2, 2008 Washington Times
By Tom LoBianco - A Frederick County, Maryland, commissioner wants the school board to survey the number of illegal immigrants who are students and has proposed withholding school funding if members fail to agree.
"It would be useful information because that would indicate the extent of public funds that are being used to educate those who are not in the country legally," County Commissioner John L. "Lennie " Thompson Jr. said yesterday.
Federal law bars school systems from inquiring after a students' immigration status.
However, Mr. Thompson said his proposal asks only for a review of student files and that he has never even "contemplated" an inquiry of students or their parents.
The proposal has rankled school board members who question the legality of Mr. Thompson's proposal.
"The fact is that federal law requires that all children be educated in the public schools of the United States, regardless of their immigration status or the immigration status of their parents," board member Kathryn B. "Katie" Groth said. "Further, the law prohibits public schools from inquiring about immigration status of students and their families. In other words, we in the public school system do not, and in fact cannot, collect such information from students and their families."
A Maryland Department of Education spokeswoman also said it is illegal for school systems to question a student's immigration status.
This is not the first time Mr. Thompson and other Republican lawmakers in largely conservative Western Maryland have proposed aggressive measures against the wave of illegal immigration.
Mr. Thompson recently supported a resolution asking state lawmakers to call for a national Constitutional Convention to address the issue of illegal immigration.
In addition, County Commissioner Charles A. Jenkins last week attempted to make English the only language used in county documents. Commissioners instead stripped his proposal and made English the "primary" language of Frederick County.
Mr. Thompson said he has been forced into such action because state and federal officials have not taken action.
Of the dozens of bills proposed in the 2008 General Assembly session to aid or crack down on illegal immigrants, the Democrat-controlled legislature passed one. Congress also has failed to agree on an immigration policy.
The county commissioners and school board members are scheduled to consider Mr. Thompson's request at a joint May 20 meeting.
Jan H. Gardner, president of the Board of County Commissioners, already opposes the plan.
"Since the county commissioners fund over half of the school system's budget, [Mr.] Thompson is effectively proposing to compromise the education of all the students in the school system in his quest for this information." she said.
Mr. Thompson acknowledged that immigration is an issue better handled by federal authorities but said it must be "solved from the grassroots up."
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
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