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Branstad: Illegal immigrant children should be denied public education
Children of immigrants in the country illegally should not be allowed to attend public schools in Iowa, so the court decision that made that the law of the land should be overturned, Republican candidate for governor Terry Branstad said Tuesday in a radio interview.
While speaking with WHO-AM’s Jan Mickelson, Branstad was asked about the U.S. Supreme Court case of Plyer v. Doe, a 1982 decision that struck down a Texas statute denying funding for education to children who were illegal immigrants. The court found that the policy was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, as immigrant children are people “in any ordinary sense of the term,” and therefore had protection from discrimination unless a substantial state interest could be shown to justify it.
Mickelson said the ruling “burdened the taxpayers with supporting the children of illegals,” and was now used by the state’s Department of Education to allow these children to attend publicly-funded schools. He then asked Branstad what he thought of it.
“I don’t agree with that decision,” he said. “I believe we need to see that overturned. But what they (the state Department of Education) are saying is it’s a U.S. Supreme Court decision and they feel an obligation to abide by it. I just think the decision is bad, it’s not a good decision and it should be overturned.”
But Branstad didn’t stop at public education. He said the state should work hard to ensure no government services go to people in the country illegally, saying government owes it to taxpayers to “see that these programs go to the ones they are supposed to support.”
“If they’re not here legally, they are not entitled to benefits and they should not receive them,” he said.
But a report by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency on undocumented immigrants’ cost to the state released in 2007 concluded that “decreasing undocumented immigrant eligibility for state spending does not appear to be a viable policy option.” This is because the only government services undocumented immigrants are eligible for — K-12 education, emergency medical care and other services available to anyone, such as police and fire protection — would be difficult to deny.
During the primary campaign, Branstad said he even opposed in-state college tuition for children born in the United States but whose parents are undocumented immigrants. However, he quickly backtracked on that statement, saying through a spokesman that if children are born here, “they are legal residents. If they are, they should be afforded every opportunity as every legal resident of the state.”
Branstad’s stand on immigration has morphed of late. During one of three gubernatorial debates held before the GOP primary, Branstad said he would not support Iowa passing a law similar to Arizona’s controversial measure that makes the failure to carry proof of citizenship or legal immigration status a crime. But earlier this month he told a crowd in Clarinda that any immigrant should have to prove they are in the country legally if they are stopped by police for a traffic violation or face deportation.
He doubled down on that stand Tuesday, saying “if someone is here illegally and they can’t show identification, I think they should be arrested.”
“But it is the federal government’s responsibility to enforce that,” Branstad said. “I don’t want those people to be housed in county jails for month after month. I think it should be turned over to the federal government and they need to be held accountable to do the deportation.”