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Trustees Redirect Efforts on Illegal Immigrant Costs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two Anaheim school trustees drafting a plan to bill Mexico and other countries for the education of illegal immigrants have abandoned the idea after concluding it is illegal.

Anaheim Union High School District Trustees Alexandria Coronado and Robert Stewart instead will present a new resolution at a public workshop today that holds the federal government accountable “for failing to protect our borders,” Coronado said Friday.

The controversial proposal seeking payment from other countries for educating undocumented students was put forth by board President Harald Martin, an Anaheim police officer who proposed billing Mexico in 1995 and again this year. The board unanimously endorsed Martin’s most recent plan, which includes all foreign countries, on July 15 and sent it to the committee to work out details.

But Coronado said Friday that trustees, who had not seen the resolution until they received their agendas for that meeting, were unprepared to vote on the issue and did not realize the legal problems it presented.

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Since the vote was taken, Coronado has discovered that international law prohibits nations from suing each other. Any other country that received a bill from Anaheim could simply cite the principle of sovereign immunity to win a court battle, Coronado said.

But she said she still supports Martin’s proposal that the INS be asked to count the number of undocumented students in the district.

The new resolution also demands that the federal government reimburse the district for the cost of educating illegal immigrants and negotiate treaties to recover the money from “appropriate foreign countries.” A final vote on the question is scheduled Aug. 19.

“We cannot bill foreign countries because of immunity clauses,” Coronado said. “But we can hold our government accountable. If we are able to request that the INS count the kids, we should do that. This is not a witch hunt. This is a cold statistic we need to have.”

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Latino activists, who plan to boycott the workshop session and hold a rally outside, said they were not surprised by Coronado’s conclusion. Critics say both plans are a waste of time.

Coronado “made a mistake, and she’s trying to figure a way out,” said Seferino Garcia, executive director of the Solevar Community Development Corp.

“She thinks that by coming up with an immigration policy she is going to change the overcrowded conditions of our schools. We don’t need the INS in our schools. We need more schools and more teachers who are role models to our students who are flunking.”

Larry Luera, a member of Nuestro Pueblo and United Neighborhoods, said the trustees are seeking to promote themselves instead of searching for ways to deal with the challenges the school district will face in the coming years.

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Martin, who said he had not yet received a copy of the new resolution, declared he would not support billing U.S. taxpayers for expenses he believes other countries should bear.

Coronado said she does not know if the school district can charge the federal government for the money it spends educating illegal immigrants.

“The correct notion is that those who have the service provided should pay for it,” Martin said. The new resolution “doesn’t preclude us from further consideration of other measures.”


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