A new immigration debate is burning in Arizona this week after the state's attorney general declared a Tucson school district's Mexican-American program illegal -- while similar class programs for blacks, Asians and American Indians were left standing.
"It's propagandizing and brainwashing
that's going on there," Tom Horne, the new attorney general said earlier this week referring to the Latino program. He ruled it violated a new state law that went into effect on Jan. 1, the New York Times reported Saturday.
When he was the state's superintendent of public instruction, Horne wrote the bill challenging the program. The legislature passed it last spring, and Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law in May at a time when Arizona was mired in protests against its new anti-illegal immigration law
The state has since been caught in a fierce immigration dispute that has cost it tourism, business with other states, and the cancellation of conventions and other gatherings by national groups. Conversely, some states mostly in the Southwest and West, support the Arizona anti-illegal immigration law and plan to establish similar measures.
Still, Arizona's law set off fiery protests in the state and in California, Washington and elsewhere. Core portions of the statute were held back and suspended by a federal court pending review in appellate courts.
Now, adding to an already combustible racial and ethnic climate in the heavily Hispanic state, 11 teachers have filed suit in federal courts challenging the new ethnic-studies law, the one that is backed by Horne.
In the Tucson school case, the state claims that the Latino program is more about creating future activists
and less about education.
Horne's fight with Tucson goes back to 2007, the Times reported, when Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, told high school students in a speech that Republicans hated Latinos. And Horne is a Republican.
Arizona school districts may lose 10 percent of their state funds if their ethnic studies programs fail to meet new state standards. Programs that support the overthrow of the United States government are banned. Also prohibited are classes that encourage hatred or resentment toward a race, or that focus on one race, or that support ethnic solidarity instead of individuality.
Horne said that Tucson's Latino program violated all those provisions. The district has 60 days to comply with the new law, although Horne indicated that the program would be ended anyway. He said that other districts ethnic-studies programs could continue, absent any complaints.
At Tucson High Magnet School where nearly all the students enrolled in Curtis Acosta's Latino literature class were Mexican-American, students expressed anger, asking how they could protest Horne's decision.
"They wrote a state law to snuff this program out, just us little Chicanitos," Acosta told the New York Times. "The idea of losing this is emotional."
On the other side, Horne was asked if he felt he was being compared to Bull Connor, the Alabama police commissioner whose violence against blacks and other freedom fighters became the image of bigotry in the 1960s. Horne said he had joined the March on Washington in 1963, and lashed out at his critics, saying, "They are the 'Bull Connors.'
They are the ones re-segregating."