Reprinted from Robert Reich Blog
America is embroiled in an immigration debate that goes far beyond President Obama's executive order on undocumented immigrants.
It goes to the heart of who "we" are. And it's roiling communities across the nation.
In early November, school officials in Orinda, California, hired a private detective to determine whether a seven-year-old Latina named Vivian -- whose single mother works as a live-in nanny for a family in Orinda -- "resides" in the district and should therefore be allowed to attend the elementary school she's already been attending there.
On the basis of that investigation they determined that Vivian's legal residence is her grandmother's home in Bay Point, California. They've given the seven-year-old until December 5 to leave the Orinda elementary school.
Never mind that Vivian and her mother live during the workweek at the Orinda home where Vivian's mother is a nanny, that Vivian has her own bedroom in that home with her clothing and toys and even her own bathroom, that she and her mother stock their own shelves in the refrigerator and kitchen cupboard of that Orinda home, or that Vivian attends church with her mother in Orinda and takes gym and youth theater classes at the Orinda community center.
The point is Vivian is Latina and poor, and Orinda is white, Anglo, and wealthy.
And Orinda vigilantly protects itself from encroachments from the large and growing poor Latino and Hispanic populations living beyond its borders.
Orinda's schools are among the best in California -- public schools that glean extra revenues from a local parcel tax (that required a two-thirds vote to pass) and parental contributions to the Educational Foundation of Orinda which "suggests" donations of $600 per child.
Orinda doesn't want to pay for any kids who don't belong there. Harold Frieman, Orinda's district attorney, says the district has to be "preserving the resources of the district for all the students."
Which is why it spends some of its scare dollars on private detectives to root out children like Vivian.
The bigger story is this. Education is no longer just a gateway into the American middle class. Getting a better education than almost everyone else is the gateway into the American elite.
That elite is now receiving almost all the economy's gains. So the stakes continue to rise for upscale parents who want to give their kids that better education.
The competition starts before Kindergarten and is becoming more intense each year. After all, the Ivy League has only a limited number of places.
Parents who can afford it are frantically seeking to get their children into highly regarded private schools.
Or they're moving into towns like Orinda, with excellent public schools.