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District Loses Immigrant School Case

Anaheim Union High tried to get U.S. help paying education costs of students illegally in country.

May 13, 2000|H.G. REZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

U.S. officials rejected a demand by the Anaheim Union High School District for help in billing foreign countries for the cost of educating illegal immigrant children.

The school board was notified of the government's decision in a March 24 letter from the Justice Department, school board president Harald Martin said Friday.

A resolution passed on a 4-1 vote by the board in 1999 demanded that the Immigration and Naturalization Service count the number of illegal immigrants attending district schools and identify their native countries.

It also asked the federal government to reimburse the school district for the cost of educating the children and negotiate with the countries to recover the funds.

According to Martin, Justice Department officials said the government has no legal standing to bill foreign countries for education costs incurred by their citizens in the United States and no legal standing to help local school districts get reimbursements.

Martin estimated that 20% of the district's students--about 6,000 pupils--are illegal immigrants. According to Martin, 98% of these students come from Mexico.

He estimated it costs the district $30 million annually to educate the students. The board acted on the resolution because of "the crunch of too many people in too little space in our schools," Martin said.

Although disappointed by the Justice Department's refusal to act, Martin said he will press the board to consider other options.

"I don't know what those options are, but I will continue to figure out other ways to deal with this issue," he said.

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