In a landmark statement on May 8, 2014 Attorney General Eric Holder said that schools cannot discriminate against the children of undocumented parents by denying them enrollment.
After receiving what he called “troubling reports” of schools, Holder reiterated a 1982 Supreme Court ruling: schools can establish a child’s residency in their district, but that parents don’t have to prove that their children are there legally.
Checking Immigration Status before Enrollment
The American Civil Liberties Union reports that schools in New York, New Jersey, Arizona and other states currently inquire into immigration status as a routine part of enrollment. Worse, undocumented Alabama children and their parents run the risk of being reported to the Department of Homeland Security – the state requires that schools determine families’ immigration status during enrollment.
Holder’s statement made it very clear that schools receiving public funding cannot deny any child an education.
“Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,” said Holder, who went on to say that the Justice Department will take an active role in ensuring that schools meet that obligation.
ACLU Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin said the statement is a win for all immigrants.
“Today’s updated guidance reaffirms the longstanding principle, established by the Supreme Court over 30 years ago, that all children living in our country have a right to equal access to public education. School districts must adhere to this guidance, and meet their constitutional obligations to ensure that no child is locked outside the schoolhouse door,” Lin said in an email.
Protecting the Right to Education for All
Unfortunately, many immigrants (both documented and undocumented) aren’t aware of the mandate and that requiring proof of legal residency is a violation of their children’s rights as outlined in the Constitution. It’s up to you and me to make sure that immigrants don’t face insurmountable obstacles on the quest for something so simple as an education – and if you know someone who has faced this issue, please let them know it’s not right; that isn’t how we do things here. I know I will.
From my family to yours,
Attorney Carlos Gamino