Occasionally, the Lege gets it right.
In 2006, the senators passed a very practical and inclusive law that says any kid who has lived in Nebraska for at least three years and has graduated from any Nebraska high school can attend any Nebraska college at in-state tuition rates, including kids who are undocumented immigrants.
Everybody wins here. Kids get a good post-secondary education, colleges get more students, the state has a better-educated populace, and the economy grows. So what’s the rub?
The rub is, Senator Charlie Janssen (See: Do We REALLY Want to be Like Arizona?) has buddied up with Kris Kobach.
Kris Kobach is an uber-conservative pretty-boy attorney from Kansas (man, whatever happened to Kansas?) who is building a lucrative career by going around the country drafting mean-spirited unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws, training people to enforce the mean-spirited unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws, and then defending the mean-spirited unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws in court for years and years… for a mere $300.00 per hour plus expenses. What a gig.
Kobach, aka The Deporter-In-Chief, is also connected with the Immigration Reform Law Institute which has been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Nice guy, that Kobach.
Anyway, Senator Janssen has teamed up with the Deporter-In-Chief to introduce LB657, which will take away the in-state tuition rate for young undocumented residents of Nebraska. Most of these young people came to the United States as infants and consider themselves to be Americans. Some of them had no idea they were undocumented. Some of them don’t even speak a language other than English. But Mean Charlie and Deporter Kobach want to force these kids to “go back to where they came from” and “get in line” if they want to get an affordable college education and make positive contributions to Nebraska’s economy and “good life.”
Mean Charlie and five white guys from Fremont (Fremont: Nebraska’s Little Arizona) who testified in support of the kick-kids-when-they’re-down bill had two basic messages for the education committee: 1) “illegals” suck, and 2) the education committee sucks.
Here’s some of the stuff coming straight out of the hearts, minds, and mouths of Mean Charlie and the five white guys:
“I’d like you to discount the fiscal note.” (The cost to the state: $545,000. Not exactly chump change in a recession.)
“We’re trying to get people down the right path.” (Is higher education a ‘wrong’ path?)
“There’s not good thoughts about members of the committee.” (Hey, I don’t edit for speakers’ grammar. I just report)
“I don’t understand why educated people on this committee don’t care…It is unthinkable the committee would kill this legislation…Respect the situation by passing the bill out of committee… Don’t flout the process by ignoring this bill.” (Note to Little Arizona testifiers: It is not very smart to scold and rebuke the legislative committee that has the power to kill your crappy bill.)
“In-state tuition directly rewards ‘these people.’ We are enticing ‘these people’ to be here.” (That’s just plain icky.)
“The low economic status of ‘illegals’ means they are taking financial aid away from citizens.” (Not true. Undocumented students cannot receive government scholarships or financial aid. Do your homework.)
In-state tuition “encourages ‘illegals’ to sneak into our state.” (From where? Kansas? Actually, I can’t blame people for fleeing Kansas.)
And here is the kicker:
“They deserve to be deported. Period.”
That pretty much gets to the meat of the matter for Mean Charlie, the Deporter-In-Chief, and the Fremont Five: Young people, who were brought to this country as infants or toddlers by their parents fifteen years or more ago, who have lived here and have gone to school, worked hard, made good grades, have never committed a crime, have made their communities and parents proud, have actively sought higher education and a better life for themselves and their families, “deserve to be deported. Period.”
Fortunately for the kids, for the state of Nebraska, and for the sake of sanity, a long line of eloquent speakers opposed Mean Charlie’s bill. Among them were a couple of former state senators; representatives from the University of Nebraska, State Board of Education, Somos (Hispanic) Republicans, and Catholic Bishops; a couple of UNL students, a teacher, a really kick-ass attorney, and a feisty elderly African-American woman who said, “Education is never wasted on any individual or children or families.”
They all spoke of the need to educate all young people, if we are going to compete nationally and globally. They said we cannot afford to waste the talents of anybody who is here, no matter where they started out in life.
Former Senator DiAnna Schimek, who worked hard for years to pass the original in-state tuition bill, and who testified eloquently in opposition to Mean Charlie’s bill, probably said it best:
“Children should not be a political football.”