Photo: Alabama Immigration Law
The Alabama legislature passed a bill last week that requires schools to collect citizenship information on students. The bill calls for public schools to confirm citizenship with a birth certificate or similar document.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a May 6 letter to school districts nationwide that “student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage” the enrollment of undocumented aliens, based on their immigration status or their parents’, violated federal law.
“The undocumented or non-citizen status of a student (or his or her parent or guardian) is irrelevant to that student’s entitlement to an elementary and secondary public education,” the letter states.
“Once you start asking that question, you get to the point where you’re tacitly trying to deny access to school,” Louis Fryer, attendance coordinator for Elmore County Public Schools, said. “Not many people are going to try to enroll students if they are illegal immigrants.”
The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that undocumented aliens could not be denied public education based on their immigration status. The case, Plyler v. Doe, involved a Texas law that denied money for the education of undocumented children and a school district that tried to charge children without documentation tuition to attend public school. The court ruled the laws were “directed against children” and violated the 14th Amendment.
The law, still awaiting the signature of Gov. Robert Bentley, requires school boards to submit citizenship data to the State Board of Education.