Immigration reform has been a hotly contested issue for decades. With Congress deadlocked on the issue, state legislatures across the country have passed strict anti-immigration bills, leaving millions of immigrants in fear of deportation. One source of fear for undocumented families is that local school districts that require birth certificates, social security numbers, and other vital information in order to enroll students will reveal the family’s undocumented status and lead authorities to apprehend them. The fear of legal retribution is so great that for many families, removing their children from school is their only choice.
Plyler v. Doe
The recent wave of state-based restrictions on enrollment of undocumented students is somewhat curious given that the Supreme Court ruled that these students have an equal right to education. In their 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe
, the justices held that schools cannot:
· Deny a student enrollment based on undocumented status;
· Require different procedures to determine a student’s residency;
· Engage in any activities that may discourage a student from enrolling;
· Require students or their parents to document their immigration status;
· Ask questions that may expose a student’s immigration status;
· Require a student’s social security number for enrollment purposes.
Furthermore, as a result of the ruling, school officials involved in enrollment and intake of new students are not obligated to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Yet, despite these clear-cut guidelines regarding student enrollment, public schools keep finding ways to exclude immigrant and undocumented children.
Alabama – The “Show Me Your Papers State”
In 2011, Alabama, angry over the lack of progress on immigration at the federal level, passed a sweeping immigration bill
. Among the many provisions of the bill was a requirement that all individuals possess identification papers in order to prove their citizenship, proof that had to be provided when getting a driver’s license, hooking up home utilities, and enrolling children in school. When the law passed, thousands of immigrant children were pulled out of school by their parents due in part to the law’s requirement that teachers provide yearly...