Officials in Arizona have spent an awful lot of time and effort in recent years trying to make immigrants uncomfortable. Most widely debated have been the state's efforts to empower police to enforce federal immigration laws, but the schools have become a battleground as well. Atty. Gen. Tom Horne authored a law — directed at schools in Tucson — that outlawed certain ethnic studies programs, along with banning classes that promote racial resentment, encourage ethnic identity or, for good measure, advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government. Last week, a federal judge in Los Angeles upheld most of that law, but his ruling, whatever its legal merits, should not encourage others to follow suit.
Supporters of the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American studies program vigorously defended it as a way of broadening the curriculum and engaging the interests of Mexican American students, exposing them to material about their heritage and culture otherwise missing from the district's educational program. Horne and others saw it as far more nefarious, claiming that it represented a takeover of public education by "radical political elements." Tellingly, Horne and other authorities cracked down on the Mexican American studies program but made no move to strike the district's African American or Asian American programs.