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Anti-Illegal-Immigration Opinion Article in High School Newspaper Protected by California Law:

A California statute, Cal. Educ. Code § 48907, protects student newspapers at public schools — not just underground entirely student-run ones, but also the school-funded and journalism-class-run ones — from censorship by the administration. There are exceptions, but they are limited to speech that is "obscene, libelous, or slanderous," or "so incites students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises or the violation of lawful school regulations, or the substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school." In this, California law provides much more protection than does the First Amendment, which generally doesn't interfere with public school administratos' decisions about what goes into school newspapers (see Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier).

Andrew Smith, who was a high school student at Novato High School, wrote an "opinion editorial on illegal immigration" which said, among other things:

• “I’ll even bet that if I took a stroll through the Canal district in San Rafael that I would find a lot of people that would answer a question of mine with ‘que?’, meaning that they don’t speak English and don’t know what the heck I’m talking about.”
• “Seems to me that the only reason why they can’t speak English is because they are illegal.”
• “40% of all immigrants in America live in California . . . because Mexico is right across the border, comprende?”
• “[I]f they can’t legally work, they have to make money illegal way [sic]. This might include drug dealing, robbery, or even welfare. Others prefer to work with manual labor while being paid under the table tax free.”
• “If a person looks suspicious then just stop them and ask a few questions, and if they answer ‘que?’, detain them and see if they are legal.”
• “Others seem to think that there should be a huge wall along the Mexican/U.S. border.”
• “Criminals usually flee here in order to escape their punishment.”
The high school principal cleared the newspaper for publication (she apparently had the job of reviewing the newspaper "for spelling and grammar" and for violations of various policies). But "the next day the Principal was approached by four or five Latino parents, who were upset and wanted to talk to her about 'Immigration.'" After meeting with the parents, the Principal called the District Superintendent, who "immediately instructed [the principal] to retract any remaining copies of The Buzz. The Principal directed the journalism teacher to collect the remaining copies of the newspaper."

Many other things followed, including (1) a school assembly at which critics of the column expressed their critical views, (2) a letter from the school condemning the column that was sent to all parents, (3) a Latino student's "threaten[ing] to 'kick [Andrew's ass]," (4) a fight with another Latino student in which Smith got a chipped tooth, and (5) a death threat against Smith from that second Latino student. For more details (and there are a lot), see the opinion linked to below.

Just yesterday, the California Court of Appeal handed down a decision holding that the retracting of the newspaper violated California law. The court of appeal rejected the trial court's conclusion that speech that is likely to cause a violent reaction is unprotected because it fits within the "so incites students" exception. Rather, the court of appeal held, "a school may not prohibit student speech simply because it presents controversial ideas and opponents of the speech are likely to cause disruption. Schools may only prohibit speech that incites disruption, either because it specifically calls for a disturbance or because the manner of expression (as opposed to the content of the ideas) is so inflammatory that the speech itself provokes the disturbance."

The school did not violate the law, the court of appeal held, by expressing its disagreement with Smith's views, or by setting up a forum at which others could express their disagreement. "None of the cases cited by plaintiffs support the proposition that a school infringes on a student’s right to free speech merely by facilitating a peaceful avenue for self-expression by persons upset by the student’s speech. We decline to adopt a rule contrary to our nation’s traditions of open debate.... We conclude the District’s efforts to give the protestors a forum, to acknowledge the legitimacy of their reactions, and to distance itself from Smith’s viewpoint was not a censure or discipline of Smith."

But it did violate the law by ordering the retracting of remaining copies of the newspaper. Even if no copies were actually retracted, because all had been distributed, the order would still have impermissibly deterred Smith from trying to distribute future copies of the material.

The decision strikes me as a sound interpretation of the California statute. I think the Court was right to say that the First Amendment doesn't bar school administrators from controlling what is published in the school newspaper. It follows that the First Amendment also doesn't bar school administrators from trying to retract copies of the newspaper when they change their minds about whether something should have been published.

But the California Legislature has opted to provide student newspapers more protection that the First Amendment requires. And Smith's article was entitled to protection under that statute.

Congratulations to the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented Smith, and to my friend and former student Stephanie Christensen, who filed a brief — together with the ACLU of Southern California, the Student Press Law Center, and some others — in support of Smith. [UPDATE: D'oh! Forgot to congratulate the Pacific Legal Foundation when I first posted this; now fixed.]

hoystory (mail):
Eugene, how does this case jive with the Harper v. Poway Unified case? Am I wrong to think that Harper's speech would've had more protection had he put it on a piece of paper and deemed it a "newspaper" or "newsletter" than the fact that he put it in masking tape on his T-shirt.

I'm especially struck by this:


The court of appeal rejected the trial court's conclusion that speech that is likely to cause a violent reaction is unprotected because it fits within the "so incites students" exception. Rather, the court of appeal held, "a school may not prohibit student speech simply because it presents controversial ideas and opponents of the speech are likely to cause disruption. Schools may only prohibit speech that incites disruption, either because it specifically calls for a disturbance or because the manner of expression (as opposed to the content of the ideas) is so inflammatory that the speech itself provokes the disturbance."


Harper's shirt did none of this, yet his speech was prohibited.
5.22.2007 9:07pm
trotsky (mail):
Here's a funny footnote:

"The trial court found that there were no undistributed copies of the newspaper to be collected. Plaintiffs do not challenge that factual finding on appeal."

Er, so did the school administrators actually retract anything?
5.22.2007 9:31pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
So. Do we have any investigations into the assault or threats?
Perhaps not. Might turn out the perps were illegals and that would never do.
5.22.2007 9:34pm
FantasiaWHT:
When I was in high school (northern Wisconsin), one of the student editors of a newspaper wrote an editorial that talked, among other things, about having sex with one of the female vice principals. The teacher in charge of the paper amazingly knowingly allowed it to be published. The school confiscated all copies of the newspaper (creating an overnight black market in photocopies of the article), suspended the student, and removed the teacher from his supervisory duties.

Wonder how that would've turned out under California law.
5.22.2007 9:46pm
whit:
for those that support hate crime laws...

i find it interesting that attacking somebody because of your perception of his race, ethnicity, etc. etc. is a "hate crime" but assaulting somebody because of their political views is not. i'm just being argumentative because i don't believe in hate crime laws in general, but the same justifications that are used to justify increased penalty (and attention) to hate crimes should also apply to crimes where the motivation is that you don't agree with somebody's viewpoints.

not to mention that assaulting somebody because of what they printed certainly seems to be behavior that might tend to squelch their desire to speak freely in the future.

i also find it ironic that a public high school student in california has more protection in expressing his viewpoints in a student newspaper, than many *college* students have, especially at private schools that have extensive ridiculous speech codes.
5.22.2007 9:47pm
Joshua:
My cynical side wonders how much good this ruling is really going to do.

Sure, schools are now on notice that if they censor student speech in this manner, they run afoul of California law. But isn't the damage already done when the deed of censorship is done? If school officials have a strong enough interest in controlling what is published in the school newspaper that they're willing to take their chances (however slim) in court, what is to stop them from censoring away in spite of the law? In most cases the censored speech would have long since become stale by the time the litigation has run its course. In effect, the school would end up winning the "war" against the speech in question, even though they may lose the court battle.

Unless the remedy prescribed by the Court for this violation is somehow sufficient to actually deter school officials from censoring student speech in the first place, the ruling is next to useless, and the stature comes off as looking like little more than a fig leaf.
5.22.2007 9:59pm
Recovering Law Grad:
I think the decision was right on the law. I also think CA's law is a good one. I am *also* not going to cry any tears for the snot-nosed little bigot who got his ass kicked.
5.22.2007 10:51pm
Timothy Sandefur (mail) (www):
Hey, now, Prof. Volokh, how about some props for my colleagues at the Pacific Legal Foundation, who represented Andrew Smith and litigated this case for several years to vindicate his freedom of speech?
5.22.2007 11:22pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
recovering.
How do you bigot against a status? He's bigoted against a status, illegal.
New definition.
Always said that accusations of bigotry or racism were cheap, manipulative scams.
Proved again.
5.22.2007 11:45pm
Recovering Law Grad:
Richard -

You're right. I didn't understand that Little Chris was talking about all illegals - Poles, Iraqis, Canadians, French - not *just* Mexicans. I see now that he wasn't talking about those dirty Mexicans who hang out on the corner speaking Mexican - he was talking about "illegals." Thanks for clarifying.
5.22.2007 11:58pm
whit:
i agree with richard. he's not a bigot. but that's what people do when they have no argument on the facts. they resort to name calling. he's a "bigot".

since the vast majority of illegal aliens come from mexico, AND the guy lives in california, it's understandable the that the people he is referring to are overwhelmingly mexican illegals.

no matter who it is committed by, illegal aliens are criminals. if it's "bigoted" to criticize criminal behavior - then i'm a bigot too.

i'm also bigoted against murderers. but murderers are over 90% MEN. therefore, i'm a sexist bigot too!

nice "logic"
5.23.2007 12:08am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Well, Mr. Smith's Spanish language skills clearly need work. Someone who doesn't understand what you are telling them will not say "Que," he or she will say "Como." Also, the assumption that people who are here illegally don't pay taxes and don't perform work that would be lawful, but for their immigration status, is not borne out by the facts. The best information about illegal immigrants suggests that the vast majority do pay taxes and perform lawful work, typically, in Northern California, as construction workers, restaurant workers, farmworkers, and domestic helpers (maids and nannies).

Mr. Smith, in short, is an ignorant, immature teenager with poor grammar, a pathetic command of Spanish, and who probably was intentionally trying to provoke and maybe insult some of his fellow students but his views in the newspaper were clearly entitled to protection under California law.
5.23.2007 12:32am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
You might want to refresh your highschool spanish before you attempt such a nasty takedown, Chris... I think the kid's right there.
5.23.2007 12:37am
ScottS (mail):
I advise a HS student newspaper in CA. This decision seems consistent with the law as I understand it, and I appreciate the work of the SPLC very much.

However, I would have strongly advised the writer and student editors not to publish this piece. If the principal was reviewing the paper before publication -- which is bad practice in the first place -- then he or she should have questioned the student(s) judgment in wanting to run this column. A failure to do so doesn't mean the school formally approved of the sentiments ultimately published, but it does suggest the the principal might be clueless enough to let it pass by without a comment or request for a contrasting student view to also be published in the student paper. (This is a reasonable request because in what is presumably a monthly publication, letters to the editor have a long delay.) The students who edit the paper get the ultimate call but it is ridiculous for them to operate in an environment where they feel no obligation to consider their audience. Neither professional nor student papers deserve to stay in business if they don't respect their readers. If the students insisted on publishing it over the advice of others, then the administration could say to the community that they respected both groups of students. In reality, they respected neither.

The point of putting students in charge isn't for them to exercise their power for the sake of exercising their power, but for the sake of learning to do so constructively under the same ethical framework professional journalists (are supposed to) work under. Like any class or school sponsored activity, a student newspaper has to justify its existence in the curriculum. The school shouldn't have tried to quash the paper after the fact under pressure. But nor is the school under any obligation to have a student publication that takes human and financial resources to support if that publication is enjoying its power to act out like Ann Coulter instead of being used to teach journalism.

If the students running the paper had a faculty adviser, that would probably help. There needs to be a teacher figure willing to advocate for the kids and also question and caution them -- to teach them. The principal has too many conflicts of interest to play that role as the paper is about to go to print. It sure seems like this situation is the result of trying to have a newspaper on the cheap. Or, perhaps two different adults let this pass by without comment... ewww.

The lack of decent editorial oversight in this case threatens the future of the student press at this school. That would be a shame. Hopefully a good student paper will cover racial tension and immigration in the future and not shy away from controversial subjects. But controversial subjects deserve intelligent, sensitive treatment, not a blank page for a misinformed punk kid with a chip on his shoulder.

The students educational interests are best served by the protections they enjoy under CA law. The students interests would also have been better served if they had been prompted to redirect their impetus for this piece into something less inflammatory. Yes, they had the right to insist on making asses of themselves, but that doesn't mean this whole case is something to celebrate.
5.23.2007 12:58am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Daniel: I lived in Spain, and have studied spanish for many years, so I know the difference in usage between the interrogatives Como and Que (accent mark over e). Como is often translated as How, but is used when people mean to say "what" when the context is "I don't understand you." It is used in contexts where, in English, we would say "what" such as "What is your name?" which in Spanish is Como te llamas, or Como se llama.

"Que" does typically translate as What, but it is used differently in Spanish, e.g., "what time is it? (Que hora es). People said Como to mean repeatedly when I was in Spain, and they didn't understand my words, or what I meant. It is used the same way in Mexico.
5.23.2007 1:26am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I meant "People said Como to me repeatedly."

An American, not too familiar with
Spanish, might say "Que" and probably would be understood, but that is not how a native speaker would ask the question if he or she didn't understand what you were telling them, as young Mr. Smith's editorial posits.
See the following link.
5.23.2007 1:34am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"que" is more informal... I think it translates to something like "huh?" I'm sure it's used when you don't understand what someone said.

Anyone going to back me up on this?
5.23.2007 1:35am
Brian G (mail) (www):
Califronia has an excellent statutory scheme in this area. I did a moot court competition in 2005 while I was in law school based on Hazelwood and Hosty and thought the whole time that (after hours of research first, of course) that it would be much better if there were more statutes that protected this type of activity.

As for the "bigot" comment, please. "Recovering Law Grad" reminds me of my law school classmates, who couldn't wait to call you bigoted when you didn't tow the liberal line. For example, I said I wasn't necessarily opposed to gay marriage, but I wanted it to be done legislatively, not by judicial fiat. I was called a homophobe and a bigot. I said I was against hate crimes laws, I was called a KKK sympathizer. I said I wished Roe v. Wade was overturned and the issue returned to the states, I was a mysogynist. And my favorite, I said in a First Amendment Law class that despite being a Catholic, I had no problem with "piss Christ" and that other so-called art where the "artist" put dung on the Virgin Mary. I said "that's the price I pay for living in a free society." You know what the most leftist dunce in the class said to that? "So, you would have no problem with young African-Amercian girls being called the n-word because that's the price they pay for being in a free country?" That's is so typical of how the liberal thought processes work.

One other example: the guy who turned in the jihadis in New Jersey, his first thought was "Am I racist for doing this?" Until I heard that, I didn't think the liberal silencing machine had any effect. I now know that "Recovering Law Grad" and his ilk are having ahuge effect on people, and I don't like it.
5.23.2007 1:36am
A. Zarkov (mail):
“The best information about illegal immigrants suggests that the vast majority do pay taxes and perform lawful work, typically, in Northern California, as construction workers, restaurant workers, farmworkers, and domestic helpers (maids and nannies).”

While illegals do have to pay sales taxes, how can they pay income tax? They either work “off-the-books,” paying no tax at all, or they steal someone’s social security number and then take enough deductions to make their withholding zero. They would of course still pay about 6.5% FICA. This amounts to approximately $2 billion per year. This is a very small fraction of the total FICA tax of $498 billion per year. You will notice the current immigration bill before the Senate includes a provision forgiving all back taxes. According to a report by FAIR illegal immigrants cost California $9 billion more than the taxes collected from them. They cost New Jersey $2.1 billion. While illegals do work for lower pay, the associated shadow costs more than make up for this.
5.23.2007 2:07am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
A.S.: Here is one way
5.23.2007 2:22am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Sorry, I meant A. Zarkov.

Also, apart from federal income tax through the procedure discussed in the article I linked, federal and state income taxes are withheld by the employers, using the phony social security numbers the workers provide.
5.23.2007 2:28am
Arvin (mail) (www):
Que v. Como:

Purely on the Spanish question, I'm going to have to agree with Christopher Cooke here. My speaking experience is mostly with Mexicans and Puerto Ricans (and various scattered South Americans), but I've almost always heard como? when something wasn't understood, or sometimes mande? I don't think I've ever heard que? except maybe as the spanish version of "what?!" (as in que dices?? what did you say??).
5.23.2007 2:53am
A. Zarkov (mail):
According to the IRS, the ITINS cannot substitute for a social security number. You must fill out form W7 and provide the information requested. At the bottom of the form it says:


Under penalties of perjury, I (applicant/delegate/acceptance agent) declare that I have examined this application, including
accompanying documentation and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is true, correct, and complete. I
authorize the IRS to disclose to my acceptance agent returns or return information necessary to resolve matters regarding the
assignment of my IRS individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), including any previously assigned taxpayer identifying number.




You could not file a tax return with this number that showed wage income from a US source. The user would have to misrepresent the source of his income and commit perjury. We also have no way of knowing how much tax illegal immigrants are paying.
5.23.2007 3:04am
Mexico Lover:
Mexicans always say ¿Mande?, not ¿Cómo? or ¿Qué?, when responding to something unheard. ¿Cómo? is used by Spanish speakers from other countries. ¿Qué? would indicate disbelief (as in WTF?!).
5.23.2007 3:15am
markm (mail):
I lived in Spain, and have studied spanish for many years, so I know the difference in usage between the interrogatives Como and Que

Would you study English Grammar at Oxford University in order to tell us how uneducated blacks in inner-city Detroit speak English? Street Mexican has drifted quite a ways from the Spanish of Spain.
5.23.2007 9:23am
Larry2:

One other example: the guy who turned in the jihadis in New Jersey, his first thought was "Am I racist for doing this?" Until I heard that, I didn't think the liberal silencing machine had any effect. I now know that "Recovering Law Grad" and his ilk are having ahuge effect on people, and I don't like it.


Brian G, The same thing has occurred to me. For a long time lefties have tried to shut down discussions by condemning the other person as racist, sexist, etc. But it's much more significant now when the atmosphere they have created makes people afraid to say anything when they think "people of color" are doing things that suggest they might be planning terrorist attacks.
5.23.2007 10:49am
S.A. Miller (mail) (www):
“The best information about illegal immigrants suggests that the vast majority do pay taxes

Since we do not know how many illegal immigrants are here, how can you know what the "vast majority" of them do? And many of the illegals that are paying income tax are committing identity theft with stolen SS#.

and perform lawful work

Not being legal residents makes their work unlawful regardless the field.
5.23.2007 11:01am
ed o:
given the prison population of illegals, not all are here for lawful work. by the way, if an illegal pays $500 in taxes while his family sucks up 10's of thousands in free medical and education, what exactly does society net?
5.23.2007 11:34am
Sk (mail):
"I am *also* not going to cry any tears for the snot-nosed little bigot who got his ass kicked."

Hilarious. Close minded, violent, hypocritical, stupid. All in one sentence.

Sk
5.23.2007 12:02pm
Mark Field (mail):
My formal Spanish goes back quite a while now, but I was taught to use "Como?" when I didn't understand. It's possible that the usage has changed, but I still use Spanish occasionally (I live in LA) and nobody has ever looked strangely at me or corrected me for using "Como?".
5.23.2007 12:28pm
Orielbean (mail):
On the immigration issue - isn't it a little easier to pursue and prosecute the employers that employ under the table? If the large employer labor market dried up from a lack of low-wage jobs, then the demand would be reduced somewhat - like agriculture, factory, Wal-Mart, etc.

I recognize the whole free education / public service drain would not be dampened, but the employers continue to get a free pass on this public debate while people argue about amnesty etc. I also realize that small employers would have a much easier end-run around any sort of legislation, but we need to start somewhere!

That's why Bush loves the amnesty concept - he gets to reward employers who exploit people and keep the lure of employment dangling a carrot in front of those who would cross the border illegally. A border fence would just keep out the guys with a broken leg or some such. :-(
5.23.2007 12:54pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Obviously "como" is correct... I'm just saying that "que?" is also used that way, especially in informal mexican spanish. In other words, that "ignorant, immature teenager with poor grammar, [with] a pathetic command of Spanish" is probably right.
5.23.2007 1:07pm
Spartacus (www):
I know next to nothing about Spanish grammar, but have had the question "Que?" asked to me on numerous occassions, perhaps because the listener disn't understand what I was saying, though perhaps the motivation was otherwise. The whole debate about the grammar is ridiculous--why question that the kid had had the same one-word quiestion asked of him? I've heard it, too, whatever it may mean.
5.23.2007 1:09pm
Dan Hamilton:

"I am *also* not going to cry any tears for the snot-nosed little bigot who got his ass kicked."


Typical liberal.

They are sooooo... nice and tolerant.
5.23.2007 1:49pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
On the immigration issue - isn't it a little easier to pursue and prosecute the employers that employ under the table? If the large employer labor market dried up from a lack of low-wage jobs, then the demand would be reduced somewhat - like agriculture, factory, Wal-Mart, etc.


Not really unless you are so stupid as to think that large employers are willing to risk getting in trouble for knowingly hiring illegal aliens. Usually illegal aliens who are hired have either forged or stolen (or “borrowed”) identification/visas and the employers have complied with the law. Or the in case of high-profile companies like Wal-Mart, they hired subcontractors (smaller employers) to provide cleaning services with a contractual obligation to comply with the applicable law who hired someone who wasn’t legally able to work for the subcontractor.

The people who are just paying someone cash under the table are going to typically be people like a sole proprietor or a homeowner looking to get some cheap labor on a temporary basis. It probably isn’t that much “easier to pursue and prosecute” those employers as it is the illegal aliens they hired on a temporary basis.
5.23.2007 2:10pm
1charlie2 (mail):
Sorry, Chris, but the use of "Que?" is, in fact, one of the differences between Spanish as spoken in Mexico vs Spanish spoken elsewhere. In my limited recollection, it was used more by trade workers rather than engineers and businessmen, so maybe it's a colloquialism or slang ('sup ?', anyone ?). But it was not uncommon.

Disclaimer: My Spanish sucks (my French is much better), but I've worked on construction engineering projects in Mexico, and I did hear it with some frequency.
5.23.2007 2:22pm
pete (mail) (www):
Manuel on Fawlty Towers always said "que"
5.23.2007 2:23pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Also, the assumption that people who are here illegally don't pay taxes and don't perform work that would be lawful, but for their immigration status, is not borne out by the facts. The best information about illegal immigrants suggests that the vast majority do pay taxes and perform lawful work, typically, in Northern California, as construction workers, restaurant workers, farmworkers, and domestic helpers (maids and nannies).


Not really, the number of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers might give you a rough estimate of the number of non-citizens paying taxes in the United States who aren’t eligible for Social Security numbers but as your own article states:

The government doesn't track how many undocumented immigrants have been issued the nine-digit numbers, and officials note that not everyone who seeks one is undocumented. Some are foreign students or researchers who are in the country under temporary, legal visas. By law, the agency is barred from routinely sharing data on taxpayers with federal immigration officials.


The CBS headline notwithstanding then, ITIN’s aren’t a barometer of the number of illegal aliens paying taxes, not by a long shot. It’s at best an estimate of the total number of non-citizens paying US taxes including people who are playing by the rules (who would be more likely to try to follow our tax laws as well than someone who is here illegally). Considering that there are an estimated 9-12 million illegal aliens in the nation and only 1.6 million ITIN’s issued last year by the IRS (the majority of which probably went to people who were here legally), your claim that the “vast majority [of illegal aliens] do pay taxes” isn’t supported by the facts you provided.
5.23.2007 2:25pm
A.C.:
Of all the methods people could have used to respond to the kid who wrote the original piece, did anyone actually submit something to the NEWSPAPER rebutting his piece? Seems like they did everything else, from complaining to the authorities to physical violence, but didn't do the one thing you are supposed to do when a newspaper annoys you. Have people forgotten how this game is supposed to work?

I've heard "que" as well, mostly from children. Nothing about it strikes me as odd.
5.23.2007 4:15pm
quaker:
Recovering Law Grad: "I am *also* not going to cry any tears for the snot-nosed little bigot who got his ass kicked."

You may want to reconsider your statement about Smith being "snot-nosed" and "getting his ass kicked." The kid's a Marine now.
5.23.2007 4:23pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
“… federal and state income taxes are withheld by the employers, using the phony social security numbers the workers provide.”

I covered that possibility in my comment. The illegal worker takes a large number of exemptions to drive his withholding to zero. Meanwhile the true holder of that number gets no notice. I asked a SS bureaucrat why they don’t notify us when our number gets used. He said SS does not know anyone’s address. I then asked him how is it that I get regular letters from SS updating my account? His response was they do a mail merge with IRS. It obvious that SS knows exactly what’s happening with the bogus use of numbers and they choose to ignore the problem. You are left to straighten out the mess when someone uses your number
5.23.2007 4:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I have been connected with a family in Mexico for years. My wife was an exchange student there a classified number of years ago. We have swapped kids with them--temporarily--and now have ten Mexican grandkids. My wife is a Masters Plus Spanish teacher and our Mexican adult friends are all the equivalent of BS plus or MBA.
They say "que?"

Our high school paper ran an article and survey on interracial dating. Some of the responses were what used to be called ignorant. One said he didn't like the idea because interracial kids looked like Dalmatians. IOW, kids being kids jerking the establishment's chain. The paper ran even the stupid responses, which resulted in not much hilarity and one fight, plus extra security at the prom.
My suggestion to the adviser, had I been asked in advance, would have been to spike the responses which were clearly stupid jokes. Editors are supposed to edit, and letters to the editor in real newspapers can be outrageous, but they rarely include juvenile chain-pulling.
There are, as has been said elsewhere, several reasons to be annoyed with illegal immigration. Among other things, it's a version of the tragedy of the commons. Eventually, the folks who play by the rules, which generally means accepting short-term loss for long-term gain, will see it's a chump's game. For now, the line-jumpers depend on the rest of us waiting our turns. When the rest of us decide that the short-term loss buys us a long-term loss, it's Katy-bar-the-door.
And Congress is getting ready to shove the rules up our noses once more. Kids, who have a less nuanced idea of right and wrong, get upset by that.
Good for them.
5.23.2007 5:50pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Based upon Pete's citation of an irrefutable source of Spanish grammar (Manuel in Fawlty Towers), I withdraw my comment about "Que." But, I will still say "Como" when I don't understand someone. I admit most of my Spanish comes from living in Spain, and from studying it for several years in the USA (at college and high school), but I have also used it speaking it with pro bono clients in California, who were predominantly from Mexico and Central America, and on trips to Mexico. I have never been asked "Que," not even "que dices" (what did you say), but maybe the people I ran into were more polite, since that is an abrupt way to signal one's lack of understanding of a speaker.

Now, venturing on topic for a bit, and having read the decision by the Court of Appeal, I think the Court got it exactly right. The kid's editorial deserved protection under California law, which affords much broader protection than the First Amendment does. The school's reaction strikes me as a typical boneheaded decision by a school administrator (the Superintendent, primarily), who overreacted to the "heckler's veto" coming from the other students and parents upset by the editorial. Perhaps everyone learned something from this experience, but I doubt it, because the court's decision came 5 years after the incident.

As for the illegal immigrant/taxation debate, I will guess we should leave that to economists who try to measure this stuff, but note that it is hard to do, because illegal immigrants are part of an underground economy. For every study someone cites showing the "net drain" on the economy from such immigration, there are many others showing the "net gain."

I do note that it is not reasonable to assume, as A. Zarkov does, that everyone illegal immigrant who is using a phony Social security number is also claiming enough deductions to zero out the tax and other withholdings. I grant you that some may do this, but there are others who likely have no idea how to game the system this way. Of course, whether this is done frequently, or infrequently, is something on which there is very little reliable data (Perhaps there is an instructional manual or website for illegal immigrants telling them how to do this?)
5.23.2007 6:06pm
Mexico Lover:
I have had lengthy conversations with literally hundreds of native-born Mexicans over the years. They all say ¿Mande? when they want you to repeat something they have not heard. They do not say ¿Cómo?, although they understand what that means and are aware that it is used throughout the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.

¿Qué? loosely translates as "Huh?" and is considered brusque. For this reason, ¿Qué? is heard far, far less frequently in Mexican speech than ¿Mande? In addition, ¿Qué? is used to express disbelief, as in, "What?! You slept with my sister?!"

Mande is used by Mexicans of all stripes; it is not some kind of street slang. It comes from the verb mandar, meaning "to command," and is thought to have originated from the colonial era when Mexico's native population worked in silver mines. If your boss calls out your name, you might respond with ¿Mande?, loosely translated as "you commanded?"

Native speakers from other countries often find this Mexican usage of ¿Mande? quaint and degrading, but Mexicans themselves do not. For centuries is has simply been their standard way of asking someone to repeat something not heard.

Overhearing ¿Mande? is one of the surest ways to know that you are not listening to the speech of Spaniards, Argentians, Colombians, or Cubans, but to that of Mexicans.
5.23.2007 8:33pm