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Virginia Bill Would Require Schools to Keep Tabs on Cost of Illegal Immigrant Students

Todd Gilbert

Delegate Todd Gilbert serves the 15th House District of Virginia including Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Page and Rockingham counties. (Todd Gilbert)

As Virginia moves to ban illegal immigrants from enrolling in colleges, one local lawmaker is proposing a bill at the state level that would require schools to report the tally of illegal immigrant students to the state secretary of education.

Todd Gilbert, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, said under his bill illegal immigrant students will retain the right to receive a public school education but that Virginia taxpayers have a right to know how much the country's "broken immigration system” is costing them.

Critics say the bill will scare kids away from school and could be unconstitutional. But it is among a string of anti-illegal immigration bills in a legislative package that includes proposals to keep illegal immigrants from finding work in the state of Virginia and bar them from enrolling in state public colleges and universities or receiving any form of public assistance.

The Virginia House of Delegates Republican Majority Caucus on Tuesday announced the legislative package, which includes at least 16 pieces of immigration-related legislation.

"We were the first state in the U.S. to deny illegal aliens drivers licenses, one of the first to deny adult illegal aliens non-emergency tax payer benefits, and one of the leaders in requiring that all people arrested for a crime be checked for their immigration status" but there is more to do,  House Courts of Justice Committee Chairman Dave Albo said in a statement.

The proposed new laws "emphasize the need to strengthen the hand of law enforcement to deal with illegal immigration across Virginia while also bringing greater integrity in vetting the legal presence of would-be employees in Virginia through the use of the Federal e-Verify system," he added.

Among those proposals is the one by Gilbert that would require students enrolling in public schools to indicate their citizenship or immigration status.

The bill provides that the child must still be admitted into public school, but the immigration status information must be reported to the secretary of education annually.

Additionally, the secretary of education must submit an annual report to the governor and the General Assembly on the number of illegal immigrants attending public schools in the state and the cost of their education.

"The idea behind this is just to help demonstrate on behalf of Virginia, and hopefully other states will join in this effort, that there are real world effects of this broken immigration system and that one of the effects is that Virginia is being forced to pay to educate children who would not otherwise be in our public schools were they not here illegally,” Gilbert told FoxNews.com.

Since 1982 the Supreme Court has required that states and localities educate children without regard to their legal status and Gilbert says he has no intention of challenging that.

"But we think we should at least be armed with the information that will help us at least make the case to the feds that the system's broken and costing us a lot of money,” he said. "The other side is always talking about the economic benefits of having illegal workers in the country, it's time to talk about the costs involved too, this is just one of them."

John Morgan, executive director of the child advocacy group Voices for Virginia's Children says while he's sympathetic to the purpose of Gilbert's bill he believes it will have an unintended but major consequence.

"Because this will require parents to indirectly reveal their own legal status, many of them will perceive this as endangering their ability to remain in this country and therefore opt not to enroll their children in school,” Morgan told FoxNews.com. "This will create a de facto barrier to public education and deprive innocent children of the schooling so necessary to their development and well-being.”

Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute says he shares Morgan's concern but believes the bill will stand up in court if passed.

"Because it's just information collection I see no constitutional issues,” Shapiro told FoxNews.com.

Shapiro says the legislature may run into legal problems with two other bills -- one that requires police to ask everyone arrested about their citizenship and report any non-citizens to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for an inquiry and another that requires certain businesses to enroll in a federal Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine employees work eligibility. Shapiro said the first may be too broad and burdensome to too many people and the second could be overturned by a pending Supreme Court ruling on a similar Arizona employment law.

The remaining bills, he says, "may not be the best policy decisions, but they're legal.”

They include initiatives to:

• have state police perform certain federal immigration law-enforcement functions

• ban state departments or employee from restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws, require citizenship or legal presence for public assistance

• make any crime committed in associate with street gangs a Class 5 or Class 4 felony, require the Secretary of Public Safety to establish an information exchange program with all border states to share intelligence on gangs, terror organizations and other illegal activity

• make manufacturing, selling, or transferring a fictitious birth certificate a Class 6 felony, ban illegal immigrants from enrolling in any public institution of higher education in Virginia

• require the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel any license, permit, or special identification card it has issued to an individual if it is notified by a federal government agency that that individual is an illegal immigrant

Task Force Leader Delegate Scott Lingamfelter says the legislative package is a good one, and he hopes it will spur the federal government to take action.

The federal government's failure to "secure our borders to address the spillover effects of illegal immigration" dishonors legal immigrants and "we simply cannot and will not stand by and watch the situation deteriorate,” he said in a statement.

Gilbert says his bill is set to be presented at the next committee meeting which has not yet been scheduled.