Horne vows to continue 'crusade' vs. Ethnic Studies
During a town hall on border security and immigration issues, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne told the crowd that he would continue to battle against Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American Studies program.
"I went on a crusade against it and destroyed the entire program," Horne said proudly.
Horne, who is running for reelection, spoke along with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to a crowd of 70 people at the Oro Valley Public Library on Thursday.
"Now they're trying to revive it, but as Attorney General, I'm fighting it," Horne said.
Horne referred to a recent court order to offer "cultural relevant classes" and said that the resurrection of the Mexican American Studies program enforced a kind of racism, separating kids by race rather than "teaching these kids to be patriotic American citizens."
Horne pushed for a law effectively banning the courses after a 2006 incident at Tucson High, in which activist Dolores Huerta gave a speech to students, commenting that "Republicans hate Latinos."
Horne then sent his deputy superintendent to speak at the high school.
Margaret Dugan, a Latina Republican, rebutted Huerta's remarks, and was met by students who turned their backs on her and raised their fists in the air as she spoke, protesting that Dugan wouldn't take student questions.
Horne called the incident a result of students' classroom instruction.
After years of work, Horne helped push a law affecting the program —HB 2281— through the Legislature in 2010. In his last days as state schools chief, he declared that TUSD was in violation.
Horne reminded Thursday's crowd that last year he threatened to cut the district's funding if it persisted in teaching material connected to the program.
John Huppenthal, the state superintendent of public instruction, agreed with Horne in a statement released yesterday. He said that the classes created by TUSD could violate an agreement between the state and the district. "TUSD agreed to dismantle the unlawful MAS program," Huppenthal said. The district, he hoped would work with his staff to ensure the law was followed.
"Political indoctrination of Arizona’s children has no place in our schools, and I will always fight for what is in the best interest of Arizona students," said Huppenthal.
Huppenthal is also in the midst of a reelection campaign for his office.
Both Horne and Huppenthal's previous campaigns relied heavily on their fight against the MAS program.
Even as Horne remains determined to continue his battle, a Maricopa County Superior Court told the state that it must increase education funding by $317 million and owes nearly $1.6 billion to the school system in the next five years.
Horne was joined at the town hall by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has also been a lighting rod for controversy in the state.
Hosted by Sergio Arellano, outreach director for the Arizona Republican party, Arpaio and Horne both spoke for ten minutes before giving way to a question and answer period.
The questions were written on cards and Arellano worked his way through almost a dozen of them, including a question about what citizens could do to help law enforcement, the Fast and Furious "gunwalking" scandal, the use of militias along the Arizona-Mexico border, and how the state was working with Mexico to deal with drug smuggling and illegal immigration.
Arpaio said he was there for two reasons. First, he said to "answer questions about illegal immigration or President Obama." A line that drew laughter from the crowd, and second, he said "to ensure that Tom Horne is reelected."
Arpaio supports Horne, he said, because both he and Horne have taken heat. "That must mean he's doing a good job," Arpaio said.
"I've been under investigation for six years by the Department of Justice," said Arpaio.
"Immigration is a big battle," said Arpaio and Horne has been willing to take on the administration.
Arpaio said he's spent 32 years fighting border issues, going back to his background as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (now known as the Drug Enforcement Agency). He listed his service, including his tenure in Mexico City and Texas, and then said "I know where the border is."
"Pinal County is not a border county," Arpaio said. "They're 70 miles from the border, but Maricopa County is only 30 miles from the border. I can't beat Pima County, though."
Arpaio said the border was a complex problem, but he didn't believe in fencing. "I might disagree with Tom on this, but we'll just create a need for hardware stores. People can just buy ladders. And, my advice, someone should open a hardware store; they'll sell a lot of ladders."
Both Arpaio and Horne argued that the federal government had gotten in the way of enforcement, blunting their efforts through a series of lawsuits, including the lawsuit of Arizona's SB1070, repeated investigations into the practices of the Maricopa County Sheriff.
Horne said his office had done a great deal to stop drug smuggling and listed off the three "cartels" that he said his office had dismantled through a series of investigations. This including operations in the Tohono O'odham Nation, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border in Pima County, creating what he called "a porous border" and in Nogales, where a drug smuggling operation worked Monday, Wednesday, Friday to move drugs through the Port of Entry, Horne said.
Arpaio reminded the audience about his own quixotic campaign.
For his part, Arpaio said that his posse was still investigating President Obama's birth certificate.
"I haven't surrendered," he said, "I took a lot of heat, but it's not over. I didn't run for governor because I've got a lot of things happening."