Columns » John Brummett

Blame the child



I'm still on this bill to allow children brought here by undocumented adults to get in-state college tuition if they spend three years in Arkansas high schools, graduate and otherwise qualify.

Let's say that, years ago, some guy kidnapped a child in South Dakota — Ralph, let's call the abducted youngster — and brought him to live in our state. Let's say the criminal creep put Ralph in our public schools and that Ralph did well and graduated from high school and qualified to go to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville to study mathematics, for which he had a knack.

Then let's say that it came out that federal law enforcement authorities, after a long investigation, had found the youngster and charged the man.

Do you believe that Ralph ought to be told that he can't have in-state college charges because he was brought to the state illegally? After all: What part of illegal do we not understand? Is not the law the law?

Run Ralph's little tail right back to South Dakota where he came from — isn't that what we should do? Otherwise, aren't we encouraging other people to kidnap Ralphs all the country and bring them to Arkansas to make mockeries of our laws and seek subsidies from us that rob our native-born youth of their special native-born privileges?

So some of you are thinking this is entirely different. You're saying Ralph doesn't compare to Juan at all.

Why not? Both are innocent kids. Both wound up in Arkansas as unaccountable minors transported here by adults doing illegal things. Both got public schooling from us. Both want to go to our colleges.

But Ralph is a natural-born American, you counter. So that's the difference. One child is less innocent than the other because of the geographic location of his emergence from his mother's womb?

Apparently Juan, if he'd wanted a more affordable college education, should have waited to come out until his momma crossed the border.

I've read extensively on this legal point that Gov. Mike Beebe cites in resisting this bill. It has been argued effectively either way. Concern about the uncertain outcome of any eventual litigation is no sound basis for resisting the simple fairness this bill offers.

You can argue, as Beebe does, that federal law effectively denies in-state tuition to a child brought here by illegal immigrants because that would amount to a benefit not extended to a natural-born American kid from another state charged higher out-of-state rates.

But you also can argue, as many elite legal scholars do, that it is not a “benefit” to charge a going rate to any and all qualified Arkansas high school graduates. You can argue that any kid from anywhere — white, black, brown, Mexican, Icelandic, Sri Lankan — who lives in Arkansas for three years and graduates from our schools and qualifies for our colleges can get in-state tuition.

This would not be a case of standing in the schoolhouse door to defy federal law. It would be a case of opening the college door until federal law told us to close it.

Beebe is a friend and admirer of this bill's sponsor, Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock. He put her on his very transition team, right there with a gas company mogul and a big-time insurance lobbyist. The governor could use his expertise and political capital to work with her on this in a can-do spirit rather than resist her for his political expedience in a can't-do spirit.

Alas, it seems he may be satisfied making a case for the greatness of his governorship by spending Mike Huckabee's surplus, embracing Robbie Wills' trauma system and getting out of the way of Bill Halter's lottery.

Bill Halter's lottery? What was that for again? Helping our kids go to college? What a strange notion. Who in the world voted for that?

Add a comment