Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Texas Governor Greg Abbott says his state should not have to provide free public education to undocumented students, despite a longstanding Supreme Court decision to the contrary.
the high court Plyler vs. Doe The 1982 ruling struck down a Texas law that did two things: It denied state funding to any student deemed not to have entered the US lawfully, and it allowed public school districts to deny admission to those children.
Abbott first made his comments on the landmark education decision on Wednesday, after a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked that would overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Abbott said the 1982 court ruling had placed an unfair burden on his state.
“I think we’ll resurrect that case and challenge this issue again, because the costs are extraordinary and the times are different” from when the decision was made, Abbott said in an interview with conservative radio host Joe Pagliarulo.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the Texas legislation violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and would create a distinct subclass.
Advocacy group criticizes Abbott for his comments
In response to Abbot’s comments, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which brought the original case on behalf of four families whose children were denied a public education, sharply criticized the governor.
Abbott seeks to “intentionally inflict harm that nine judges agreed should be avoided 40 years ago,” said Thomas Saenz, MALDEF’s president and general counsel, in a press release.
The 1982 decision was a 5-4 ruling, but dissenting judges in the case said “it made no sense for an enlightened society to deprive children, including illegal aliens, of an elementary education.”
His dissenting opinion, written by then-Chief Justice Warren Burger, said the court’s majority was overreaching to make up for a lack of “effective leadership” from Congress on immigration matters.
Sáenz also said that unlike Roe vs. Wadethe Plyler vs. Doe decision has been incorporated into federal law.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
The governor foresees an upcoming influx of migrants
After his initial comments, Abbott reiterated Thursday that his state is in an untenable position.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that states have no authority to stop illegal immigration into the states,” Abbott said, according to The Texas Tribune. “However, after the plyler decision say: ‘However, the states have to pay out of pocket for the fact that the federal government has not secured the border.’ So one or both decisions will have to go.”
Abbott said Texas’s challenges will worsen when the Biden administration ends the Trump-era public health order known as Title 42, which has barred immigrants from entering the US to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The change will bring a new influx of immigrants, he said.
In this sense, the governor echoes an argument that his state made in the plyler case 40 years ago. At that Supreme Court hearing, then-Texas Deputy Attorney General Richard Arnett said Texas hoped to discourage immigrants from entering the state illegally.
“The problem is not the children who are here,” he said. “The problem is the future.”