San Bernardino County deems proposed petition to ban undocumented immigrants in Yucaipa schools illegal

By Beau Yarbrough | Press-Enterprise
Published: April 15, 2017 at 9:44 pm |
Updated:   April 15, 2017 at 9:46 pm

SAN BERNARDINO >> A proposed ballot initiative that would have banned undocumented immigrant children from attending Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified schools is something that only the California legislature can do, according to San Bernardino County’s elections chief.

“The state constitution vets the legislature with sweeping and comprehensive powers in relation to public schools,” an April 11 letter to Joseph Turner from Registrar of Voters Michael J. Scarpello reads in part. “The admission standards and tuition contemplated in the proposed initiative fall within the area of the legislature’s preemption on this subject.”

And that means the proposed ballot initiative “cannot be processed,” Scarpello wrote.

“This is exactly the sort of corruption I have come to expect from San Bernardino County where they make up and interpret the law to suit their agenda,” Turner wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon. “Their easily refuted lies and legal interpretations illustrate how government has become the enemy of working-class Californians who seek to play by the rules.”

Turner said that when he submitted his proposed ballot initiative on April 3, the registrar’s office said nothing about school district initiatives being limited to taxes and bond issues. He now intends to reach out to conservative legal groups to help him fight the county’s decision in court.

The ballot initiative, if approved by voters, would have prohibited undocumented immigrant children from attending Yucaipa schools and would have charged tuition to the citizen children of undocumented immigrants.

Turner who now lives in Torrance but who previously lived in San Bernardino and Redlands, said he chose Yucaipa for its small size and political conservatism. He would have needed about 3,200 signatures (10 percent of the registered voters in the school district) to get his measure on the ballot. According to the registrar of voters’ office, nearly 60 percent of voters in Yucaipa voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

It is not a district, however, with an unusually high number of immigrant children, according to the limited information available: In the 2015-16 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, 9.4 percent of Yucaipa-Calimesa students were classified as “English Language Learners,” according to the California Department of Education. Neither the district nor the state release statistics on how many students are undocumented immigrants or have parents who are.

That’s about half the rate of English Language Learners in San Bernardino County, which was 18.9 percent in 2015-16, and just more than a third of the state average, which was 22.1 percent the same year.

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