tags: , , , Blog

House Republicans Focus Their Latest White Nationalist Attacks On School Kids

Share This:

It seems like no U.S. policy priority is immune from the GOP’s obsessive fearmongering on immigrants. 

Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing this week that was neither about education nor the workforce. “The Consequences of Biden’s Border Chaos for K-12 Schools” was instead a forum for Republicans to continue espousing dangerous conspiratorial rhetoric, scapegoat immigrant children for avoidable challenges facing K-12 schools, and plant the seed for efforts that would seek to restrict the public school education guaranteed to all kids regardless of immigration status under Supreme Court precedent.

Texas Rep. Nathaniel Moran, a Republican on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, previewed some of this anti-immigrant rhetoric in a Fox News op-ed published the morning of the hearing. Rather than propose policy solutions for all of America’s school kids, Moran used his platform instead to agitate anxieties of scarcity to pit child against child, which continued into the hearing later that day. 

“The financial impact is staggering,” Florida Rep. Aaron Bean, the committee chair, claimed from the dais. But Rep. Bean might want to calm down with the finger-pointing. Moms Rising said in a letter to the committee that members in Bean’s district “have been alerting us to widespread closures of even ‘A’ rated high-quality public schools due to underfunding and under-enrollment because of the Florida GOP voucher program that has siphoned funding and students from public schools.”

“Even Florida’s top Republican education official has said that these school closures are a trade off for GOP ‘school choice’ policies, citing the program structure as the reason for public school closures,” the letter continued.

Said another way, Republican-supported programs are defunding public schools and robbing kids of a quality education. Not a stellar campaign message, so instead, they just falsely blame immigrants for the problem.  


The conspiratorial rhetoric that has become central to GOP messaging, advertising, and overall electoral strategy also raised its ugly head. During and following the hearing, Republicans employed white nationalist and antisemitic “invasion” rhetoric that has been tied to numerous racist terror attacks across the U.S. in recent years. Utah Rep. Burgess Owens, meanwhile, pushed  the “replacement” conspiracy theory, claiming that the arrival of unaccompanied minor children to the U.S. “is not an accident. We see an attack on our educational system. It has been on purpose.” In other words, elites (maybe Jews or liberals or both) have a secret plot to kill K-12 schools via immigration.

Remember: these are asylum-seeking children who have arrived at our borders in search of safety on their own after fleeing violence and other dangers in their home countries. And while Republicans claimed during the hearing that they’re really “fighting on behalf” of unaccompanied children, they sure have a funny way of showing it. H.R. 2, their main immigration bill from this current session of Congress, “would end the U.S. protection system for unaccompanied children as we know it,” Kids In Need of Defense said.

On a more personal level, it was deeply disappointing to see a number of the members of the majority and their witnesses attack English as a second language (ESL) education, including claiming that it was “absolutely slowing [learning] down for all of our children.” Even though I was born in the United States, the first years of my public K-12 education were taught in the ESL curriculum. These are some of the fondest memories of my early childhood. Every morning, we would sing along to the “Where is Thumbkin” nursery rhyme as one of our teachers would play on her autoharp. I can still hear it so vividly in my head.

Most of all, I remember the kindness and compassion of educators who never made us feel like we were a burden. Instead, they recognized our potential and nurtured us. 

It’s a far cry from other rhetoric coming out of the hearing this week. Sheena Rodriguez, one of the so-called experts called by Republicans, said immigrant kids were a “meal ticket” for parents. If her name sounds familiar, you’re onto something. Rodriguez, President of the Alliance for a Safe Texas, supported and participated in the January 6th insurrection, at a minimum she was confirmed to be on the Capitol grounds that day. Nor is this the first time House Republicans have invited an apparent January 6 participant as a witness. 

During an April 2023 appearance, California Rep. Eric Swalwell questioned Rodriguez on her participation that day. “I did not encounter any violence, as a matter of fact it was quite peaceful, I was involved with some prayer,” she claimed. However, Rodriguez tweeted what appeared to be two personal photos on the Capitol grounds as it was being violently overrun. That’s some “prayer.”

The fact is that all children, regardless of immigration status, are guaranteed access to a public school education under the landmark Plyler v. Doe ruling. The case that would eventually result in this Supreme Court ruling began nearly 50 years ago when a boy named Alfredo Lopez was sent home from elementary school, NBC News reported in 2022. Texas had taken numerous steps to block undocumented kids from school, including allowing school districts to deny enrollment and charge undocumented families an exorbitant $1,000 in tuition. Four families sued with MALDEF’s help. 

While House Republicans did not outright suggest ways to challenge this ruling, the Heritage Foundation did, and it’s the Heritage Foundation that’s calling the shots in the GOP with its Project 2025 agenda. Included in its report on the so-called “Consequences of Unchecked Illegal Immigration on America’s Public Schools” are recommendations that would dissuade undocumented parents from enrolling their kids in public school, including requiring “enrollment data by immigration status” and taking the nation back to pre-Plyler v. Doe days by requiring these parents to pay tuition for their kids. 

The goal is to take it back to the Supreme Court for a favorable ruling, as plainly stated by the Heritage Foundation. “Such legislation would draw a lawsuit from the Left, which would likely lead the Supreme Court to reconsider its ill-considered Plyler v. Doe decision that had no basis in law.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has previously expressed a desire to “resurrect that case and challenge this issue again.”

“I don’t want this hearing to be an attack on migrants in our communities,” said Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a ranking Democratic member of the committee. “Hearings and words that are used can have consequences and put students in harm’s way … especially concerning when research shows that migrant students often face disproportionate risk of bullying and harassment. There’s no question that we have challenges at our U.S. border. We all acknowledge that, but we’re talking about children here.”

“The process is broken,” Rep. Bonamici continued. “We haven’t had comprehensive, humane immigration reform for years … But immigration policy is not in the jurisdiction of this committee, so instead of using this committee as a political weapon, we should spend our time examining what the support is in place for the newcomer migrant students, and what policies we can have to support those students so they can succeed.” 

Indeed, a well-educated population benefits everyone. But Republicans are making clear they’re willing to sacrifice children’s success and future – and America’s success and future – at the cost of holding onto political power. As my own personal story can attest, if the nativist attacks continue or come to policy fruition, they will have far-reaching consequences for citizens, not just newly arrived immigrant children.