Some believe it is easier for a child to enroll in school while here illegally than if he or she legal residents.
That’s what Joe Messina said he discovered as he tried to help a family here legally try to get their children enrolled in the William S. Hart Union High School District, the board of which Messina sits as president.
He tells the story this way: A couple came to this country to work securing the necessary visas to do so, and deciding to live in the area. They thought it was a short-term project, so they left their children in their home country, which Messina would only describe as “overseas.” But the project was extended by two years, and the couple felt they no longer could leave their kids thousands of miles away, so they brought them into this country and secured visas so they could legally live here and attend school.
But somewhere along the way, somebody checked the wrong box or somebody gave somebody faulty information, and the children were given the wrong type of visa to register and attend their home public school.
“The kids were in a kind of education limbo,” Messina said.
Private school, charter school or home schooling remained options, but none were really viable due to costs and logistics. Messina received a call to see what he could do.
He found out it would take between four and six months to fix the problem. “It’s government bureaucracy at its finest,” Messina said.
He tried contacting Rep. Steve Knight’s office and was told it would take about the same amount of time. Finally, somebody tipped him off: If the parents go to a different school in the district and say they are here illegally, “it all stops,” Messina said.
No more questions, no more bureaucracy.
The reason: The 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe. The Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that all illegal immigrant children between grades kindergarten and 12 cannot be denied education.
Hart District spokesperson Dave Caldwell confirmed, “That’s the law. We must accept all children. That’s my understanding.”
Furthermore, Messina explained, a family would have to go to a different school because every school has its own registrar, so the school that first denied the child already knows that the problem is the wrong visa, but other registrars don’t know.
The irony is not lost on Messina: “Do it legally and it screws up, so lie.”