A federal judge in Houston has struck down as unconstitutional an ill-conceived Texas law that has barred children of illegal aliens from attending public schools. In doing so, US District Judge Woodrow Seals has sent a welcome message to state officials in Texas and in other border states that refusing such youngsters an education is not the way to resolve the social and economic problems brought about by the influx of illegal immigrants into the United States.
Judge Seals ruled that even illegal aliens are protected by the US Constitution's guarantee of due process and equal protection of the laws. Moreover, he properly noted the "enormous public cost, both financial and social" that could accrue from such a policy. By making it more difficult for such youngsters to be assimilated into society by denying them an education, he wrote, "we ensure that most of them will become wards of society."
No one will deny that the growing flood of illegal aliens into the Southwest is throwing an ever larger financial burden on states and localities in that region. Although taxpayers are understandably reluctant to see local revenues spent on schooling and other public services for illegal aliens, it is also true that many businessmen and farmers do not hesitate to encourage the use of undocumented workers and to take advantage of the financial rewards of reliance on the cheap labor provided by immigrant families.
In this particular case, Judge Seals found that "the evidence does not indicate. . . that the state or the school districts lack the necessary funds" to include illegal aliens in the schools.
The growing numbers of illegal aliens entering the US from Mexico and other Latin American countries do pose a serious and complex national problem. But penalizing their children is morally wrong as well as legally indefensible.