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Reynolds backs denying education to illegal immigrants
Republican lieutenant governor candidate Kim Reynolds said Saturday that children who are undocumented immigrants should be denied access to public education. But she stopped short of offering a specific plan on how to make that policy a reality.
Reynolds was asked about immigration policy while attending the annual Latino Heritage Festival in Des Moines. Her running mate, former Gov. Terry Branstad, recently told WHO-AM’s Jan Mickelson that the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plyer v. Doe — which said the children of illegal immigrants must be allowed access to public education — should be overturned.
While discussing the issue on Saturday, Reynolds said she agrees with Branstad’s position but would not go as far as to say that they would act directly against the law as it stands if they are elected this fall.
“Well, the Supreme Court has ruled, so that we need to operate within the law – what the law is right now – but would probably disagree with that and look at maybe changing that, or working towards it,” she said in an interview with The Iowa Independent. “But right now it is the law and we need to go by what the law is.”
The Washington, D.C., news site Politico recently said Branstad’s position on immigration “goes further than other GOP candidates” around the country. It appears only Tom Tancredo, a third-party gubernatorial hopeful in Colorado and former presidential candidate, has gotten on board with Branstad’s position, saying that if elected he would ignore the ruling in order to push the issue back to the Supreme Court in hopes of reversing the decision.
Reynolds was hesitant to go as far as Tancredo, making it clear she and Branstad are still in the process of reviewing the law.
“Well, I think we’ll take a look at it, move through one step at a time,” she said. “That’s where we’re going to start. We’re going to review it and possibly take a look at it.”
Opponents of Branstad’s position say withholding things like basic education, police protection and emergency health care to any segment of society has ripple effects for everyone. They also decry punishing children for the actions of their parents. When asked specifically about children’s welfare, Reynolds noted the necessity of promoting legal immigration and border enforcement.
“I think what we need to do is enforce the existing laws on the books, the federal government needs to step up and enforce the existing laws – they’re not doing that,” she said. “So, we need to start there. We need to enforce the borders and then we need to move forward with legal immigration and really support those who are getting here legally. And then we need to take a look at increasing the number of visas, or streamlining that process. So, we really can do it the right way and make sure that people who are here legally and so their children, they can be proud of that. And so that’s where I’d like to put my efforts.”
Many festival attendees of Latino decent were not receptive to the message promoted by Reynolds and others at the Republican Party of Iowa booth. Diana Pauley, of Des Moines, said that as a granddaughter of Mexicans who immigrated to California in the 1920s, she was offended by the Republican stance on immigration.
“My parents got to go to school,” she said. “My parents got to do everything that everybody else got to do. My parents paid taxes; my grandparents paid taxes, everything. So, they have their rights too, and that was in the 1920s. They weren’t told to go back. They weren’t told that my parents couldn’t go to school. That was way back then. No, we can’t do that.”
Although agreeing with Republicans that the U.S.-Mexican border should be shut down in a safe way, Des Moines resident Pedro Parada went as far as to say that denying education to children of illegal immigrants was inhumane.
“I believe we are all humans,” he said. “Education, it’s a public right. It’s for everybody. If you think about Hispanics, we’re a big minority in the United States. So, if you’re going to deny education to our minority, you’re going to lack a future. I mean we’re the future. We’re the fastest growing minority group in the U.S.”
The State Data Center of Iowa estimates there were around 126,000 people of Latino decent in Iowa as of July 2008, about 4.2 percent of the state’s total population.
Parada said that he felt the Latino push from the Iowa GOP was in vain since Latino voters are less likely to vote Republican.
“Most of us are not Republican,” he said. “Because the Republicans, for the most part, they are the ones against that, against immigration and immigration reform.”
Both Pauley and Parada said this issue is one of the main reasons they and other Latinos would vote for incumbent Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in November.
Republicans, however, are not ready to surrender the Latino vote, showing up in force at the Latino Heritage Festival hoping to reach out and convince Latinos they have a place in the Republican Party. In fact, this is the third ethnic festival in recent weeks where Republicans have made a strong showing, Polk County Republican Party Chairman John Bloom said, as the party makes an effort to court minority voters.
Bloom told The Iowa Independent that it has become apparent that ethnic minorities have not been voting for Iowa Republicans. That is why, as a key element of the party’s action plan, they have labeled minority outreach as one of their priorities.
“We feel that we should have the same percentage of Latinos or African Americans or Asians that hold those same values,” he said. “It seems to be working pretty well; we’re getting a very good reception.”
Latino Resources – the group that hosted the festival – does not take positions on political candidates, executive Director Joann Mackey said, adding further that any candidate can make an appearance if he or she chooses.
“Latino Resources welcomes everybody, we never endorse anybody,” she said. “We have a longstanding policy that we will not endorse any candidate. We love everybody.”
Although the Iowa Democratic Party was not present at the festival on Saturday, Culver reportedly attended the event after Labor Day events across the state. The Culver campaign used the event as an opportunity to criticize Branstad’s positions on both the education for children of illegal immigrants and his support for the controversial Arizona law, calling the Republian’s views “extreme.”