Friday, April 30, 2010

What the Law Actually Says

Those who find themselves in the position of not knowing what to believe about the Arizona immigration law might want to read a New York Times op-ed written by one of the drafters of the measure. It offers an excellent summary of the law's provisions. The author is Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri. Kobach begins with this:

On Friday, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a law - SB 1070 - that prohibits the harboring of illegal aliens and makes it a state crime for an alien to commit certain federal immigration crimes. It also requires police officers who, in the course of a traffic stop or other law-enforcement action, come to a "reasonable suspicion" that a person is an illegal alien verify the person's immigration status with the federal government.

Predictably, groups that favor relaxed enforcement of immigration laws, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, insist the law is unconstitutional. Less predictably, President Obama declared it "misguided" and said the Justice Department would take a look.

Presumably, the government lawyers who do so will actually read the law, something its critics don't seem to have done. The arguments we've heard against it either misrepresent its text or are otherwise inaccurate. As someone who helped draft the statute, I will rebut the major criticisms individually.

Read his response to the critics at the link. I think the dissenters know that the law is not the totalitarian bogeyman they're making it out to be, but they're upset because they don't want any enforcement of immigration laws. They want amnesty and open borders, and the Arizona legislature seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Thus the hue and cry about racial profiling, arbitrary searches and all the rest.

The law makes sense, Arizonans and other Americans overwhelmingly support it, and I imagine other states are looking to adopt similar legislation.


Re: Nerdiness

Lest anyone have thought my comments in the Nerdiness post concerning the low priority given to education by the administrators of our public schools a bit exaggerated, one of my students, writing of her own high school experience, said this:

Sadly, I would agree with your statement that education is usually not the first priority in most high schools. A prime example of this in my high school happened during the musical season of my senior year. Our show that year was "The Secret Garden," and many of the songs (even those for the chorus) were high and complex. As a result, the choral director for the show began scheduling rehearsals for the songs during the school day in addition to our after-school rehearsals. Many of the teachers did not complain about this; however, my AP English teacher did. Our AP English class had about 12 students in it - 8 of us were involved with the musical. When we all asked to be excused for the mandatory rehearsal, he was outraged. Not only were we not allowed to go to the rehearsal, but we were also forced to sit and listen to him rant about how extracurricular activities seemed to take precedence over his class, and other classes for that matter. (The irony is that he wasted his valuable class time ranting).

At the time, his refusal seemed unfair and silly; however, looking back now I realize how right he was. Extracurricular activities often were given higher priority over classes. In addition to the choral director pulling us for rehearsals, we also missed almost an entire day of classes to perform the show for senior citizens. In addition, the band director pulled kids for individual lessons, and the sports teams were excused early for away games. Students involved with SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and STAAT (Students Taking Action Against Tobacco) were allowed to miss class to visit other schools to talk about their causes. Student Council always took a day long trip to New York City (mostly for shopping), and chorus members went to see a show on Broadway. Additionally, pep rallies often caused shortened instructional periods in order to allow ample time for showing off the football or basketball teams.

As an education major, of course, I do not believe that learning should come after extracurriculars on the priority list. However, I think that extracurricular involvement plays a vital role in the college application and acceptance process; perhaps this fact is partially to blame for grades and smarts being knocked down a few notches. I remember that throughout high school we were constantly being told to be well-rounded individuals, to be involved. It was not enough just to get the good grades. When we applied to colleges, they weren't just looking at GPA-they wanted to know our extracurricular activities. Scholarship applications were like this, too. I know it is important to be involved, but high schools cannot let their students lose sight of the fact that extracurriculars aren't the only things that matter. Chances are that the singing stars and the football quarterback aren't going to have opportunities to excel in those activities forever. High schools need to find away to bring the focus back to education and keep extracurriculars as afterschool activities. Perhaps then nerds will have a chance to show how their intelligence and good grades are the popular things to have.

This student didn't go to the high school at which I taught, but judging from her experience she could have. In fact, she could have gone to just about any high school with which I'm familiar. If taxpayers want better educated students they might campaign to have schools keep students in the classroom. It would increase the amount of learning that takes place, and it wouldn't cost a cent.

By the way, I would have been honored to have had her AP English teacher for a colleague. He sounds like a man after my own heart.