Latino School Enrollment Up in Texas Cities With Immigration Laws

FORT WORTH, Texas

North Texas cities debating local laws to deal with illegal immigration are also home to school districts with some of the state’s largest increases in Hispanic student enrollment, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram analysis found.

The Irving and Carrollton-Farmers Branch school districts were in the state’s top 5 percent for the greatest proportional increases in Hispanic students from 1995-96 to 2005-06. Of the more than 560 districts analyzed by the newspaper, the two school districts also ranked in the top 30 for the greatest percentage-point increases in poor children and students with limited English proficiency, according data from the Texas Education Agency.

The newspaper did not say whether the data explained if the Hispanic students were immigrants or U.S.-born.

Experts think the rise in Hispanic enrollment may help explain the push for strict immigration-related measures in cities such as Farmers Branch and Irving.

“Very rapid change seems to make a lot of people uncomfortable,” said Michael Teitelbaum, a demographer at the New York-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “You could portray it as racism or xenophobia or fear of the other. But you could also say that people like stability in their lives, and they’re willing to accept gradual change but not rapid change.”

Irving police participate in a federal program that lets jailers call a 24-hour number to have an immigration officer verify if a detainee is legally in the country. Since the program’s establishment, Latino advocates have accused some police officers of racial profiling and overzealously arresting suspected illegal immigrants.

Farmers Branch approved an ordinance in February that requires prospective tenants to get a city license to rent houses and apartments. Those who can’t prove their legal status, could not continue renting in the city. The latest law is a more sweeping anti-illegal immigration measure than two previously approved, but cannot be enforced until legal challenges are resolved.

While more than a hundred local governments nationwide have drafted laws dealing with illegal immigration, such measures cannot extend to school districts. A 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires public schools to educate all children, regardless of immigration status.

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