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“Do I look mean?” Del Rio Superintendent Kelt Cooper has stirred up old racial tensions. photo by Laura Burke There, Del Rio school district employees handed out fliers citing Texas educational and penal codes. “Upon conducting a check at the Port of Entry your child was observed crossing into the United State from Mexico to attend school. … Your child will be withdrawn from the school immediately,” the notices read in part. “Please come to the Office of Pupil Services … to provide proof of residence in the United States:’ About 200 notices were issued that morning. The orders had come from Del Rio’s new school superintendent, Kelt Cooper, who has made it a priority to root out Mexican residents attending school in his district. Port Director Mike Perez, who has worked at the bridge since 1979, says that previous school administrators occasionally came to the bridge with clipboards jotting down students’ names. But “it hadn’t been done for a few years:’ he says. “The flier is new I’ve never seen that done before.” The Del Rio News -Herald headlined its story “District Cracks Down on ‘Illegal’ Students.” Cooper told the paper that a census taken two day earlier had provoked the crackdown. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agentsat Cooper’s requesthad counted the number of school-age children crossing on Monday, Sept. 7. On Monday mornings, families typically return to Del Rio after spending the weekend with relatives in Ciudad Acufia. Perez says that agents counted about 50o children. Cooper said the situation was “out of control.” “When we have vans with Coahuila license plates dropping kids off at elementary schools and a report that says hundreds of kids are coming across,” Cooper told a News -Herald reporter, “we have a problem. With these kinds of numbers, it was out of in the story was that all 50o children that crossed that Monday were either U.S. citizens, Legal Permanent Residents or had valid student visas to attend private schools in Del Rio. CNN and Fox News picked up on the local story and ran with it. In short order, Cooper became a national hero to anti-immigration activists. But local civil rights organizations began looking into potential rights violations. “There was no due process,” says Courtney Schusheim, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Del Rio. “If you came across the bridge, you were automatically withdrawn from school.” The law is clear when it comes to a student’s immigration status. In its 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school officials cannot ask about a student’s citizenship status. But according to Texas state lawwhich Cooper says he was followingchildren must reside in the district where they attend public schools. All but 20 of the approximately 200 students issued warnings on Sept. 9 eventually returned to Del Rio schools. Texas DECEMBER 11, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 9