I have been communicating with a lovely woman who is an ESL teacher in Missouri that was moved to action after reading about our strong showing in Jeff City last week to testify against SB590. While she could not take off of work to drive there she did prepare a heartfelt letter to send to Mr. Kraus from the very important point of view of a teacher working with English Language Learners (ELLs) and the chilling effect that this type of bill will have on her interaction with the students and her parents. I have gotten her permission to post the email exchange, to illustrate how Mr. Kraus, along with others that support his type of legislation are completely ignorant about our actual immigration system. Even confronted with the clear proof that the assumptions and facts that supposedly are the impetus for this law are actually wrong (not his opinion on immigration mind you but the “facts” he testified that led him to propose this law), Mr. Kraus refuses to even entertain the idea that what he has concocted in his head as the truth is in fact incorrect. What kind of leader is he that would stubbornly cling to his proposal even when it is proven that the underlying premies is as real as a unicorn. Speaking of unicorns, it would be easier to convince my 4 year old niece that they do not exist than to get a politician to admit that his research was faulty, his logic is ludicrous, his proposal was ill conceived or that after receiving new information and examining a problem based on that new information he has decided that his old idea is now not a good one.
As Mark Twain said, “you are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts.” Mr. Kraus, just because you really really really want something to be true because it fits neatly into your paradigm does not mean it is. I am sorry. What I think bothers me the most is that he was sitting in that hearing room listing to all of those people testify. Community leaders, religious workers, heads of archdiocese, Presidents of School Boards, Former police men, Immigration Attorneys, Community Members, Teachers, Students, Principals, Heads of Organizations that deal with New Refugees, Crime Victims, Domestic Violence. He sat there and listened to some very emotional testimony and some very fact based and practical of the problems with his law. He sat there and still he responds like he does on his last email, obviously having done no further research to see if the points that the people who know way more about our immigration system than he does brought up. Not one inch has he cracked that closed mind in response to some very valid points that were presented in testimony. Of course he may not have been listening at all because he spent most of the time messing with his smart phone…plants vs. zombies can be so addictive.
It is so tired to hear this same line of “reasoning” from people like him, because it is clear that he has no interest in making a bill that is GOOD for Missouri, in light of the overwhelming number of people who are against the bill. He has chosen to remain purposeful and willfully ignorant despite all the evidence that was presented against his position. That is not the mark of an effective leader. It is not blindly proposing idiotic, costly unfunded mandates and then sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling “I’m not listening I’m not listening” when challenged. It is about researching an issue before wasting everyone’s time and money by proposing it and then listening to the pros and cons of both sides and revising your proposal according to the new information you have.
So here is the email exchange. I have left out the ESL teacher’s name at her request so she does not have problems with her district. Other than that I have not edited at all. After the exchange I will further explain why Mr. Kraus is wrong.
Original Letter from a Real Missouri ESL Teacher
Sent: Sunday, January 22, 2012 11:20 AM
To: Will Kraus
Subject: SB 590
January 23, 2012
State Senator Will Kraus
201 W. Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Dear State Senator Kraus,
Imagine being a kindergartner who doesn’t speak English well. Now, imagine the school staff and ELL (English Language Learners) teacher interrogating you and your family about your immigration status. Instead of looking forward to school, now, you are scared of the people who are there to help you. Do you know the saddest part about this scenario? It is the fact that legislators like you are happy about it because you hope it will scare ELL families out of Missouri. Not only does this show that you don’t understand what this will do to our economy and schools, but it shows you don’t care. Shame on you!
Under Title VI, all of these children have a right to a free and appropriate education. It is my job to teach them English, not be an agent for the I.N.S. Many of these children are already United States citizens, and they want nothing more than to fit in. However, you aim to separate them and make them targets of harassment. The sad thing is that you will only make those who fit a racial profile the targets. No one will ever question the blond-haired, blue-eyed ELL student that I have now, so this is just a new form of discrimination.
SB 590 proposal is based on Alabama’s law, which was shown to affect school attendance and the economy of the state. The law has already been challenged in court, and the school provisions to check immigration status have not held up. Therefore, you are proposing a law that will waste Missouri taxpayer money when it goes to court. Why not use that money for education when we are not able to fund the school formula? Is politics worth more to you than the education of Missouri’s students?
Your law proposal states that you want to know how much it costs to educate illegals or children of illegals at the expense of United States citizens. This just proves that you don’t get it. Most of these children are United States citizens because they were born here. It doesn’t matter whether their parents are legal or not. Those that are not citizens or may be illegal deserve the right to an education without harassment. As a teacher, I give my best effort to educate all of my students and treat them all the same. No matter what you decide, I refuse to enforce your racist law at the expense of terrified kindergartners.
Missouri ELL Teacher
From: “Will Kraus” <Will.Kraus@senate.mo.gov>
Subject: SB 590
Date: Mon, Jan 23, 2012 8:55 pm
You must be referring to a different bill. No part of SB 590 asks school staff to “interrogate” children and their families. Currently parents are asked for proof of residency in the district. We are only asking for proof of citizenship of every child and then asking the school to document the number of non-citizen children that attend that school. No teacher, ELL or otherwise, will be at all involved in that process.
My door is always open,
Response from Missouri ESL Teacher
Sent: Monday, January 23, 2012 9:14 PM
To: Will Kraus
Subject: Re: SB 590
Once again, you show how little you understand about how public schools and ELL programs operate. Since many parents of ELL students do not speak English well, we often have to assist in enrollment. This means that we would be forced to ask questions about their immigration status. If you believe that this would not set an antagonistic relationship with these parents and kids, then you need to do further research and talk to ELL teachers.
Mr. Kraus’ Response (Now snippy)From: Will Kraus Sent: Jan 24, 2012 10:00 AM TO: XXXXXXXXXX Subject: RE: SB590
You are right. I do not understand why it is a burden to be asked your immigration status. It is a simple fact, nothing more. You are either a citizen or not. If not, you are either documented or not. If you are documented showing that documentation is not a burden. If you are not, it is a simple answer to a simple question. Since we all agree federal law requires any child an education and since this bill prohibits any use of the information gathered other than to collect numerical data for DESE, I don’t understand why anyone would be afraid of that process.
The area undisputed is that lack of federal enforcement of current law costs Missouri taxpayers money. I don’t believe attempts to quantify that amount are at all misguided.
My door is always open,