Superintendent raises concerns over tougher immigration bill - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Superintendent raises concerns over tougher immigration bill

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About 245 students attend Jackson Elementary School in Pascagoula. More than a quarter of them are Hispanic. The entire district has more than 760 Latino students. About 245 students attend Jackson Elementary School in Pascagoula. More than a quarter of them are Hispanic. The entire district has more than 760 Latino students.
PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) -

A stricter immigration bill is moving forward in the Mississippi House. On Friday, a House Judiciary committee passed the measure. One provision would require school districts to check their students' immigration status.

Critics say the bill unfairly targets Latinos. One South Mississippi school superintendent has his own concerns about the measure.

About 245 students attend Jackson Elementary School in Pascagoula. More than a quarter of them are Hispanic. The entire district has more than 760 Latino students.

"We have the largest Hispanic population, English Language Learners population in the state of Mississippi, proportionate to any other district in the state of Mississippi," said Pascagoula Schools Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich.

Mississippi's immigration bill would require immigrants to carry documents, showing they're in the U.S. legally. Rodolfich has some concerns about a provision that would force school districts to check on their students' immigration status.  For one thing, he said it would mean more bureaucracy.

"I do think it adds another layer for schools to be managing some social issues," said Rodolfich. "I do think there are unintended consequences sometimes with laws that are passed, like the fact that you have a child who may be deprived of an education who's going to be residing in your community."

Right now, for new students entering the Pascagoula School District, their parents have to show two proofs of residency, like a lease or a power bill. They also have to have a birth certificate to show that they are the parents of that child. However, the district does not track the child's immigration status, because of a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

"Plyer v. Doe very clearly stated that regardless of immigration status, that children will be educated if they reside within the boundaries of the school district. We're going to provide that fair and equal opportunity for all children based on what the Supreme Court case says," said Rodolfich.

Rodolfich said there are still too many questions about the role schools will play in the immigration arena.

"I just think I need better information about what the law's going to say as it relates to how this impacts children. Because, ultimately, we have to try to protect our children," he said.

The immigration bill now goes to the House Education Committee.  Immigration will be one of the key issues at the 2012 Catholic Day at the Capitol.  The event takes place next Wednesday in Jackson.

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