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As Long as We Remember...

October 2, 2007

Opposing Views, Good Policy

Farrell Keough

A funny thing happened on the way to the Editorial Store. I got replies to my inquiries and did not have to make a purchase. No really, there is an Editorial Store! But they are expensive and have terrible business hours.

Instead, inquires of two of our Board of County Commissioners were not only returned immediately, but the commissioners held firm to their positions, something we all should respect and desire of our representatives.

Jan Gardner and Charles Jenkins were kind enough to have a spirited conversation via email about Mr. Jenkins' proposed request of the Maryland General Assembly to allow Frederick County to discontinue services to illegal immigrants. This is a serious - and national issue.

The two commissioners have very differing perspectives on this issue; and it is important to review both sides, so we, the people they represent, can have a full understanding of what is being discussed. This is not a partisan argument. Both commissioners agree that illegal immigrants are breaking the law and that the federal government has failed to address immigration. This is a dialogue about who should take on this issue, what is at stake, and how to proceed.

What services could be affected by this proposal?

Frederick County Attorney John Mathias noted that under existing federal law, the following cannot be provided for illegal immigrants: Medicaid, temporary housing for needy families, housing vouchers, food stamps, and energy assistance, to name a few. But, by federal law, we must currently provide: public education, public safety (fire & rescue), law enforcement, adoption, and child protective services.

What this actually means, in terms of costs and services, needs to be an important part of the discussion.

How will our schools fair?

Do we have an obligation to other human beings to provide certain services whether they are legal or not?

Do we diminish those services to the tax paying public by providing them to those in our nation illegally?

Note, this proposal will not include emergency services; hence someone hurt in a car accident will receive the police and medical attention they need, whether they are here legally or not.

Then comes the question: can Frederick County afford this proposal?

For instance, if this became legislation and services were denied, what would be the possible outcomes?

Mrs. Gardner would posit that this would end up in court as it would be counter to current federal law and court decisions. She takes the position that we cannot break the law even if the desire is to change the law or enforce other laws. Denial of such services without changes to the federal law is an unacceptable course of action for her.

Commissioner Jenkins believes that this proposition does not carry the same potential problems. While this proposal will encounter legal objection, it is well worth the effort as our federal leadership has proven they are not up to the task.

We, as a community, have slipped quietly to a point where we are paying large amounts for services provided to those who are here illegally. In short, Commissioner Jenkins believes we should not require the tax paying, legal resident to foot the bill for those who are here illegally.

This proposal carries numerous implications, including access to parks, libraries, and numerous other potential services. To date, the precise services have not been specified as the final legislation is under the purview of our state representatives.

In fact, the only service which has been noted is providing a public education. Mr. Jenkins noted the high burden our schools place on our budget, providing this service to illegal immigrants carries too high a cost.

Although state and federal taxes may be paid by some illegals, they do not have a valid Social Security number, hence state and federal income taxes are not generally paid or are erroneously attributed, causing problems for legal residents. In short, we are footing the bill to educate the children of this group while they are not in turn helping to supplement that cost.

Commissioner Gardner points to the multitude of potential pitfalls with this approach. The county receives some $16-$17 million in federal funds for our schools.

Denial of service would require the Board of Education to comply.

Denial of service would not only be contrary to current federal law, but would require both the state legislature to sign on and the Board of Education to participate.

Denial of service would likely discontinue federal funding and the extra cost would need to be borne by county residents.

In 1982, the U.S. Supreme court ruled - in Plyer v. Doe - that the U.S. must provide public education to all children in residence. This ruling, very simply, held that while the law states that "no State shall 'deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,'" the 5th and 14th amendments do not require specific jurisdiction and hence the intent included all residents.

This ruling was also based on the determination that children are innocent of the actions of their parents and cannot control their location of residence. Although the court acknowledge such things as an education is not a fundamental right, the court held that education has a special status and deprivation of such will pose a lifetime hardship.

The court also acknowledged that while the costs of this education were a hardship, any mitigation did not justify the savings to the taxpayer. In other words, the general benefit to the children outweighed the hardship on the taxpayers.

Commissioner Jenkins believes this is a wrong interpretation of the Constitution and notes that the decision was a 5-4 judgment, far from an overwhelming determination of constitutionality. "[W]ithin its jurisdiction" was included for a reason and that should be upheld.

This is a brief overview of the differences. Both commissioners hold worthwhile positions and anyone interested in this issue should take the time to think through these differing sides.

This issue is far too important to have a one-sided view presented or to couch the positions with hyperbole - "open boarders crowd", "racist tactics", etc.

I hope you will find these two alternate views informative and determine your own position. These two commissioners are showing us good government and we owe them the respect they deserve for holding firm to those positions. This has the very attributes to make good policy.

Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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