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December 12, 2008

Counting All Students

Roy Meachum

My position on illegal immigrants differs slightly from Sheriff Charles "Chuck" Jenkins' and, of course, County Commissioner John "Lennie" Thompson's.


Mr. Thompson and I have been consistently on different sides since he brutalized women and their children when they wanted a new mosque and a school of their own. He proved himself a sadistic demagogue during hearings at Frederick Community College when he held the women and their children into morning's early hours.


Other commissioners suggested at midnight's approach that they resume when bed times didn't loom. No way, said Mr. Thompson. On other matters, as well, he proved to be emphatically inflexible.


But on the matter of counting the county schools' load of boys and girls whose parents reached Maryland illegally, I must agree.


When a young lady born in this country told me her non-citizen husband was arrested for driving while intoxicated, I replied he was busted chiefly not for intoxication but for stupidity. In fact, he could have gone on comforting his wife and their nearly-new baby – and working for a boss who trusted and needed him – until the cows came home.


I'm not preaching on the devil in alcohol; that would be hypocritical considering the times the grape overtook my soul and body. But in those times I put in danger chiefly myself; there was no danger in my younger days that I would be forcibly exiled, torn away from my family.


Chuck Jenkins has never proposed turning his sheriff's department into a latter-day Gestapo; his deputies do not knock on immigrants' doors before dawn to haul them away. They must be first arrested on a crime or misdemeanor, and then the department checks on their legal status with immigration.


I'm very aware a few of his officers are capable of "profiling:" harassing someone simply because of his complexion; a skin color does not make him capable of robbery and violence. Not alone.


That's why law-enforcement officials exist; their job consists of supervising the officers enforcing laws against crimes, including profiling. And following Jeffersonian principles, journalists exist to watch the officials and officers to make sure they protect Americans' rights.


Lennie Thompson has proven himself no friend to new citizens in ways other than his mosque-and-school behavior. His persistence in attempting to make a count of pupils who are not legally in Maryland struck me first as Lennie behaving as usual.


Once working myself through that personality hindrance, and giving the commissioner his due, I came to realize he was absolutely right. Governments allocate funds on the basis of students' numbers. Not counting any category's boys and girls eats into the pockets of local taxpayers, exactly as Lennie said.


My chief concern, however, remains still will the government using information gathered through the count against the family. The sheriff and the commissioner say not! And I reckon we will have to live with that; the alternative will make our expensive school system even more expensive.


Please understand: I am not proposing trading these human beings' right of privacy for filthy lucre. These youngsters are getting a first-class education that will come under attack as the deep recession becomes deeper.


Chuck Jenkins is not an overly complicated man; he thinks everyone should accept the legal reality, whatever the classification. I doubt he actually believes illegal immigration is sucking Frederick's treasury dry.


It makes no difference: fair is fair, exactly as the sheriff says. Each individual does not have a choice of laws to be followed or rejected.


I love the flavor in the community that Latinos bring. They join my Muslim friends in making Frederick a much more sophisticated environment than when I moved here in 1983. Lennie Thompson may resent the change from the county he grew up in. He has that unalienable right. But nobody owns a license that allows anyone to make other people miserable.


The sheriff and the commissioner worry – along with most of us – that this city and county remain intact for the next generation. I'm there, too. But I want the fresh ideas that newcomers bring.


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