Today's column comes with an apology to readers of my blog who may have seen this item, or one markedly similar to it, there already. But if you feel strongly about something, and if the rant crackles like Crisco in an iron skillet, then why not avail yourselves of all the platforms with which you are blessed?
If politics is truly to be noble, as Bill Clinton, Dale Bumpers and David Pryor told us the other night it still can be, then there must come a point at which you do the obviously right thing without regard for political viability.
There must come a point at which a self-professed descendant of those three — Mike Beebe, I mean — must do the obviously right thing without regard for political viability.
Beebe, I am certain, knows that the right thing to do is to support Rep. Joyce Elliott's bill to allow the children of illegal immigrants — children, I say again, who did not come here illegally by choice, but were brought here as minors and who got educated here in our public schools because that was the right thing for us to do, and, in many cases, excelled here academically — to get not college scholarships, though they ought to get college scholarships if qualifying, but simple in-state tuition from the very state that provided them a public elementary and secondary education.
Why spend money to educate innocent young people only incompletely? What at all is hard about that question?
But, oh, no. Beebe, concerned about his conservative Democratic bona fides out there in the hinterlands so that he can get re-elected and feel important, relies on an attorney general's opinion — his own — that says federal laws seems to say that if you extend a college education benefit to an illegal alien then you must extend it to every out-of-state person.
What hooey. Wrong as attorney general, wrong as governor, wrong as a human being. As Elliott explained yesterday to the Senate Education Committee, several states have this in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, and have had it for years, and yet no one has struck down any of them.
Texas — Texas, I say — has had this very tuition policy since 2001. Texas, George W. Bush's ever-mean Texas, has a more sane and fair policy than we do.
So, anyway, they had testimony by a young Honor Society child of an illegal immigrant, Juan, about how he needed in-state college tuition so he could become a math teacher and give back to the community. Sen. Kim Hendren, challenged by colleague Jimmy Jeffress to say what he'd do for Juan, said he'd tell Juan that we are a nation of laws but that he would be glad to help him. The way to help him would be to change the law.
You can't rely on an argument that you are hamstrung as a nation of laws when you are sitting on a lawmaking committee as the swing vote authorized, by the simple of mouthing of “aye,” to change the law. And if somebody wants suddenly to pick out Arkansas to impose this concern Beebe supposedly has, after leaving all of Texas alone for a near-decade, then we can deal with that when the time comes.
Three mighty cheers for David Gearhart, chancellor of the UA in Fayetteville, who endorsed the bill and explained to the committee that the university does what it can now to find financial equalization help for children of illegal immigrants. I guess Beebe would have us believe that federal law requires Gearhart to gather every young person across the great USA and extend the same human compassion his school is extending to these young people. I believe it is incumbent on Beebe, if he has the courage of his supposed conviction, to send the State Police to Fayetteville to crack down on this sane compassion that is getting extended by a state institution toward innocent children.
Shame on Beebe. Shame on all of us. Build your danged wall if you must. Lean on the chicken plants and the landscape services to hire only genuinely documented people. Heck, round them up and take them all to Juarez, if you must.
But if they are kids who have long lived here, and who went to our schools, and who qualify to go to college, and want to go to college, then charge Juan what you charge John.
What's the worst that could happen? Juan might get a little caught up in campus life and not study as hard as he ought. That happens. The feds might tell us we'd need to stop giving in-state tuition to Juan unless we gave it to Ralph in South Dakota. So we'd stop. Or else our higher education enrollment would grow like Lu-CA on steroids. And Beebe would win re-election with 54 percent instead of 60, the difference comprising people who really don't have a moral leg to stand on.