The Justice Department sent a letter to school districts in Alabama on Tuesday reminding them that they can’t deny a child access to public education due to his or her immigration status.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez’s letter comes after he expressed concern that Alabama’s anti-illegal immigration law was keeping children out of school because their parents are scared about the impact of the law. A federal judge has blocked portions of the harsh anti-illegal immigration measure.
DOJ also requested information about the enrollment practices of each school district to determine whether they were complying with the law.
It has come to our attention that the requirements of Alabama’s H.B. 56 may chill or discourage student participation in, or lead to the exclusion of school-age children from, public education programs based on their or their parents’ race, national origin, or actual or perceived immigration status, or based on their homeless or foster care status and consequent lack of documentation.
As you know, in Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), the Supreme Court held that a State may not deny a child equal access to public education based on his or her immigration status. Noting the “pivotal role of education” in our society, id. at 221, the Court concluded that denying innocent children the benefit of schooling provided to other students within the district was unconstitutional.
Officials filed suit against South Carolina’s immigration law on Monday and said they were in discussions with Utah, Georgia and Indiana about their immigration laws.
View the full letter, sent to districts with heavy Hispanic populations, here.