President Trump has taken a lot of flak for pushing to build a wall along the southern border and assemble a nationwide deportation force, but this week an Oklahoma lawmaker illustrated how things could be worse.
Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature need to find a way to fill a $900 million hole in the state budget, and on Wednesday Representative Mike Ritze floated a novel proposal: Round up 82,000 public-school children who don’t speak English. “Identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens, and do we really have to educate non-citizens?” Ritze suggested in an interview with News9.
Ritze said the newly created Republican Platform Caucus had estimated that the move could save $60 million, but as the Associated Press notes, there are a number of problems:
• We really do have to educate non-citizens. In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that children living in the United States can’t be barred from public education due to their immigration status.
• The United States doesn’t have an official language.
• According to the state’s Department of Education, there are about 50,000 English learners enrolled in Oklahoma’s public-school system, not 82,000.
• Some of those English learners are U.S. citizens.
• It’s unclear if Ritze was proposing turning over the children’s names to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or actually rounding them up. The latter move would be expensive, even without factoring in money for the inevitable legal challenges.
• Even members of Ritze’s party think the proposal is inhumane. Oklahoma schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister, a Republican, called it “utterly shameful,” adding, “There is no benefit to floating outrageous ideas that seek to punish kids.”
Thankfully, the members of the Republican Platform Caucus have some other money-saving ideas — such as eliminating non-essential employees in higher education and doing away with a film tax credit — which don’t target children or tear families apart.