If you are going to debate immigration reform, be smart about immigration reform, especially about the positions of the opposite party's intellectuals.
This means among other things being smart about school choice for immigrant children. Vouchers for newly regularized immigrants under the age of 18 empowering them to attend any public or private school in the city in which they reside should be part of the GOP amendments to any immigration reform bill. The cost of such a voucher is zero additional dollars if used in a public school and if used for, say, a Catholic school, it would be far less than the actual cost of attendance –which is about $3500 on average for a Catholic school in the U.S.—but enough to get some private schools to accept some of the young, newly regularized immigrants.
The reasons for marrying vouchers and education reform to immigration reform are many, and that is why I discussed the idea with both Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Jeff Flake on the Monday their bipartisan group's principles were announced (those transcripts are here), and with AEI’s James Pethokoukis the same day, and why I hope many more conservatives will take up the idea in the weeks ahead.
First, while education is largely a local and state issue, the federal government has plenary authority over immigration. It has the power to impose vouchers on every school district in the country when it comes to newly regularized immigrants under the age of 18. It doesn’t have to use the Constitution’s spending power or its taxing power. The Congress can simply mandate that the newly regularized young immigrants may attend any school in the city in which they locate and it can give a private school voucher payable from the Treasury. So Congress has the authority.
Next, regularizing these children and then condemning them to the worst performing elementary and secondary school does nothing to advance the assimilation goals of the genuine immigration reformer. Pethokoukis has written about this and assimilation ought to be a huge focus of regularization.
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