Connecticut policy produces sanctuary colleges, segregated poor schools

Responding to the possibility that President-elect Trump’s administration will enforce federal immigration law more vigorously, the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system have more or less declared themselves to be "sanctuary campuses." Like Connecticut's "sanctuary cities," Hartford and New Haven, the colleges will not assist attempts by the federal government to identify and detain illegal immigrants who have enrolled as students. The colleges will even help illegal immigrant students resist deportation.

Some people may be surprised by this policy, surprised even that state colleges are admitting illegal immigrants in the first place. After all, every illegal immigrant admitted is one less citizen who can be admitted, and admitting illegal immigrants devalues not just citizenship but efforts made by legal immigrants to follow the law.

But as a UConn spokesman notes, state law actually requires the colleges to consider the applications of illegal immigrants on the same terms as everyone else, and immigrants living in Connecticut in violation of federal law nevertheless are entitled to in-state tuition rates. State law here probably would not command much support from the public, but devaluing citizenship is politically correct and political correctness rules at the state Capitol and even among Connecticut's congressional delegation, none of whose members will say plainly whether he or she supports or opposes the practice of "sanctuary cities" issuing city identification cards to illegal immigrants to facilitate their breaking the law.

The president of the colleges and universities system, Mark E. Ojakian, added a nice touch to his announcement of the "sanctuary campus" policy. As his valediction, Ojakian chose "In solidarity," apparently aspiring to pose as a working-class hero. The state Board of Regents for Higher Education pays him salary and benefits totaling $550,000 per year — solid indeed, if not quite invoking power to the people.

Legacy of Sheff

Twenty years ago in its decision in the Hartford school desegregation case of Sheff v. O’Neill, Connecticut’s Supreme Court construed the state constitution to give every public school student in the state the right to a racially integrated education. But the Connecticut Mirror reported the other day that most Hartford students still attend segregated schools. For the settlement of the case between the plaintiffs and state government produced only a schedule for integrating some of Hartford's students over many years.

The supposed constitutional right of all Connecticut students to a racially integrated education has never been taken seriously because of its impracticality. Enforcement would require most students to spend more time on buses than in school.

Though the Sheff case has served mainly to make the Supreme Court ridiculous, the instigators of the case have managed to make a career out of it. They have become the "Sheff Movement" and solicit tax-deductible contributions to stay employed advocating integrated education, an endeavor in which Connecticut has been no more successful than it has been in reducing poverty, another failed endeavor that nevertheless underwrites many careers.

If it ever was recognized that the failure of poverty policy is the essential problem of education in Connecticut, not racial segregation or incompetent teachers, the state would risk political upheaval, since so much of what government here does is based on mistaken premises. But more evidence of the centrality of this failure was publicized recently by the Yankee Institute: a study by a professor at North Carolina State University that found that Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven lead the country in the flight of young families to the suburbs to escape city schools overwhelmed by the neglected children of impoverished single- or no-parent households.

Stop manufacturing poverty and schools will integrate themselves.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

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