Part One Of A Two Part Series: See Part Two: Plyler vs. Doe: The Solution
David Verducci is a victim of U.S. immigration law.
No, he's not an Italian who snuck into the U.S. illegally, or one of the millions turned back in the 1920s, the last time Americans decided that their country needed a breather between waves of mass migration.
In fact, David Verducci is an American citizen, and a public official—a conscientious schools superintendent in Fairview, New Jersey, whose good name and career prospects were trashed because of American immigration law. You see, he foolishly tried to obey it.
Even worse, David Verducci tried to enforce it, to execute the laws duly passed by our representative government, judged constitutional by our courts, and binding on all U.S. residents. He tried to do his job—and found himself made out as a monster before a national audience, in the pages of The New York Times.
Here's how that paper spun his story:
On the first day of school [in Fairview, New Jersey], five of the Medrano children woke up early, scrubbed their faces and put on their new outfits, excited to begin a new year.
A day later, the children – two pairs of siblings and a cousin – were abruptly ordered out of school before lunchtime by [Fairview schools superintendent David Verducci], who said he had just discovered their parents were in this country illegally.
Now, three weeks into the school year, the children are spending their days at home here as their mothers – two sisters and a niece – agonize over how to get them back into school.
School District Blocks 5 Children of Illegal Immigrants From Classes By Maria Newman, September 20, 2002Mr. Verducci had learned that the children's mothers, Salvadorans with Canadian citizenship, had overstayed their tourist visas. It was obviously unlikely that three mothers and five children would come to the United States and all overstay their visas unless the family plan was to resettle illegally in the United States. Verducci believed, based on his interpretation of the INS Code, that he was obliged to turn the Medrano children away.
As a public official Verducci felt himself obligated to prevent abuse of his school district by illegal aliens—much as a housing official would feel compelled to remove a band of homeless people squatting in a government building.
At that, the forces of government leapt into action - not to assist Verducci in upholding the law, but to help illegal aliens get back into an American school from which the law actually forbade them.
The Medrano mothers' lawyer, Louis Zayas, claimed, "the immigrant status of the parents is entirely irrelevant; the law of the land says that children still have the right to a public education as long as they live in Fairview."
N.J. assistant education commissioner Judith Weiss, pursuing an inquiry from The Times, strong-armed Verducci into readmitting the Medranos while New Jersey officials reviewed his decision.
"The superintendent," Ms. Weiss said, "is not supposed to ask about the immigrant status of the family."
Meanwhile, Eduviges Medrano moaned: "All I wanted was for my children to go to school."
An American school, apparently, not a Canadian – much less a Salvadorean one.
"I tell my children that education is like food, it is so important," Medrano was quoted as telling the Times's Maria Newman.
So important that she was willing to take it illegally at the expense of overtaxed New Jersey parents.
For Americans who think Verducci had the better argument, the dénouement is depressing but not surprising. As reported three days later by NorthJersey.com's Miguel Perez and Elizabeth Llorente:
The show of emotion was stopping traffic on Anderson Avenue Monday morning in Fairview. Three mothers and five children were kissing and hugging each other and drivers were pulling over to see why they were all laughing and crying at the same time.
But all the commotion was over something most people view as commonplace–the children had just regained their right to receive a public education. … "Are we going to school?" shouted Franklin Medrano, 13, as he saw his mother returning with her lawyer from a meeting with school officials. "Yes, you sure are," shouted his mom, Eduviges Medrano, breaking into tears. Moments later, the whole Medrano family was entangled in one big embrace. "This is a victory for all immigrants, not only in this town, but throughout the country" said Medrano family attorney Louis Zayas.
Illegal aliens' children regain right to schooling, Tuesday, September 24, 2002, By Miguel Perez And Elizabeth LlorenteHere Zayas willfully conflates illegal aliens with legal immigrants—a standard tactic among ethnic lobbyists, which muddies the issues (and incidentally insults the thousands of people who play by the rules, instead of jumping the line). Letting the Medranos flout U.S. immigration laws and bilk New Jersey was no victory, but a crushing defeat for the rule of law.
Nor was this outcome a fluke, a sentimental mistake made by a liberal bureaucrat. Every layer of government backed the illegal aliens.
Assistant commissioner Weiss said, "so long as the parents…can document that they reside in the district, they're entitled to enroll in the schools – period."
N.J. Dept. of Ed. spokesman Tom Rosenthal agreed, saying, "The rules prohibit school officials from asking or considering immigration status for purposes of school admission."
And our nation's gatekeepers at the INS? According to Eastern Regional Office spokeswoman Amy Otten:
"We cannot admit people on non-immigrant visas into the country to attend a public elementary or secondary school. But in this particular case, they're already here. The INS doesn't deal with who is admitted to public…schools."Nor with aliens who illegally overstay their visas: Newark INS spokesman Kerry Gill said the INS would not bother with the Medranos' case. The agency is too busy.
As for David Verducci, he drank his cup of humiliation to the dregs, writing the Medranos a welcome-back letter professing the multicultural creed: In the Fairview school district, he said between clenched teeth,
"we are proud of our diversity, and even prouder still of the incredible richness of experience that our multi-cultural environment provides for its students. [While diversity makes conflicts inevitable,] these issues are related to governmental legalities and external regulations, and not to our commitment to all children, regardless of race, color, gender, ethnicity, or origin."Educating illegal aliens isn't a trivial problem. The Washington Times recently reported that approximately 15 percent of California's K-12 public school students are illegal aliens—costing taxpayers $1.6 billion per annum. Estimates for illegal alien students in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona run between 10 and 15 percent. This doesn't count the American-born children of illegals. A recent FAIR report, "No Room to Learn: Immigration and School Overcrowding," [Full text in PDF] estimates that immigrant influx will account for 96 percent of the increase in the school-age population in the United States over the next 50 years. Illegal aliens will account for much of this–some estimate half.
How did it come to this?
Stay tuned for Part Two, which examines the legal background underlying the abuse of government services by illegal residents.