A bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that the children of illegals are entitled to a public education, at least through the 12th grade and maybe beyond. The ruling was unclear about college, but legislatures in New York and California have guaranteed illegals a right to attend public institutions of higher learning. We shall rashly state that the Supremes' logic in the case, Plyler v. Doe, was unfathomable. It presumed to rest on the Constitutional right of all persons to ''equal protection of the laws,'' but it was definitely stretching things in asserting that the Fourteenth Amendment required states to provide identical treatment to those who lived there lawfully and those who did not.[ILLEGAL RIGHTS, by Daniel Seligman, Fortune Magzine, June 27, 1994]How can you tell that Court was bitterly divided? Well, you count the votes, (5-4) and you read the dissent, which was written by Chief Justice Burger. How bad was Plyler? Well, Sandra Day O'Connor joined in the dissent. One important point is that we're not dealing with the children of illegal alines, but with illegal alien children. (And teenagers, of course.)
"Both the opinion of the Court and JUSTICE POWELL's concurrence imply that appellees are being "penalized" because their parents are illegal entrants. Ante at 220; ante at 238-239, and 239, n. 3 (POWELL, J., concurring). However, Texas has classified appellees on the basis of their own illegal status, not that of their parents. Children born in this country to illegal alien parents, including some of appellees' siblings, are not excluded from the Texas schools. Nor does Texas discriminate against appellees because of their Mexican origin or citizenship. Texas provides a free public education to countless thousands of Mexican immigrants who are lawfully in this country."
[BURGER, C.J., Dissenting Opinion, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATE,S 457 U.S. 202 Plyler v. Doe]