PHOENIX - A letter from a teacher is the latest bombshell in the state's immigration debate.
It was read on the Senate floor where five illegal immigration bills were defeated Thursday.
Even though the bills failed, the letter lives on stirring debate and prompting one Valley organization to question the judgment of the senator who read it.
It came up during a debate of a bill that would have required schools to check each student’s legal status.
Senator Lori Klein explained many people misinterpreted the bill’s intent.
She said they never wanted to deny anyone an education, but rather get a handle on how many students are in the country illegally so Arizona can tally the cost to educate them.
On Friday night Klein told me they simply thought it is important to understand how much federal and state tax dollars are spent on educating undocumented children,
“Where is it going and who are we educating and I think that's a fair question I get asked by my constituents,” Klein said.
During her floor speech she read a letter from a person identifying himself as a West Valley substitute teacher.
The author’s name is omitted from the letter.
He details events that took place in an 8th grade Glendale classroom with "almost all Hispanic and a couple of black children."
He later writes, “Most of them stated they were in the country illegally, White Americans are racist, and that they came here for a better life.”
READ THE FULL LETTER ON THE LAST PAGE
The author says his wife and children are Hispanic.
He says the students were tearing pages out of textbooks, throwing pencils, generally not prepared for class and speaking Spanish in class.
The author, who addressed the letter to Senate President Russell Pearce, wrote, “I asked the students to stop speaking Spanish in class because it was impolite to speak a language in front of people who may not speak that language. Their response was that Americans better learn Spanish and their customs because they are taking their land back from us.“
Tonight I asked Senator Klein why she read the letter.
“They apparently had little regard for him, they were rude to him and basically engaging in behavior that isn't appropriate in any school," she told me. "It shows how little regard some of these people have for the education they are getting for free from the American taxpayers, that’s why I read the letter.”
But the letter also included this sentence, “I have found that substitute teaching in these areas most of the Hispanic students do not want to be educated but rather be gang members and gangsters.”
It is statements like that which had people calling Bill Straus, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
“I’ve gotten e-mails and phone calls throughout the day yes,”
Straus told me.
I asked him what people were saying and he replied, “Asking what, if anything, is the Anti-defamation league is going to do. We have a state senator that gets up and reads this hateful pile of trash. I’d be curious to know if there really is a substitute teacher because quite frankly I’ve read a lot of stuff like this.
"Our organization monitors extremist groups, individuals. I’ve seen a lot of things like this, it's not that out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary that it gets the credibility of a state senator reading it word for word on the floor of the senate, it’s a disgrace,” Straus said.
Klein stressed that the letter is not her opinion, that she merely was presenting it to show what one teacher says he’s dealing with and that the point of reading it wasn’t to offend but to inform.
“To say that all Hispanics kids don't want to learn is not true,” said Klein. "I was reading that letter verbatim, I did not have time to edit it.”
She added that his letter showed that some of some of the things he is experiencing are, “not an anomaly. According to him it’s endemic in certain areas in Phoenix which is very sad. It should be sad because I know there are a lot of wonderful Hispanic families who treasure their kids and their education.”
Klein also said, “Not one of us on the senate floor is racist or has anything other than the hope that people who are here in this country will appreciate what they are in getting in terms of their education to get ahead in life. Do we want people here legally and go through the legal channels? Absolutely! We think that's the right way to handle it, however we are here in this situation where we are educating people and we want to be able to understand exactly to what level and who we are educating and we want to make sure people are actually getting educated.
"We hope they are appreciating the education because if they were to have a pathway to citizenship, which they are, I mean many of these young boys can join the military and be given the ability to become legal citizens, so we certainly want people to be educated.
"This was not a racist thing to find out how many people are being educated, it was a matter of letting the taxpayers know the cost. So it