Obama Admin to Public Schools: You Must Enroll Children of Illegal Immigrants

Leah Barkoukis

5/8/2014 3:27:00 PM - Leah Barkoukis

Thanks to a new directive from the Obama administration, public schools have been reminded that they are required to provide all children within their districts access to education, no matter what the student or their parents’ citizenship or immigration status is. In other words, schools cannot require them to provide any documentation that would show their status, such as a social security number or birth certificate.

The Hill has the details:

The directive to all public school districts, meant to ensure equal access to education for the nation’s illegal immigrants, comes amid reports that some children have wrongfully been denied enrollment.

Attorney General Eric Holder said such policies “have a chilling effect on student enrollment, raising barriers for undocumented children and children from immigrant families who seek to receive the public education to which they are entitled.”

“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,” Holder said. “We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.”

The new guidance from the departments of Justice and Education is an update of similar guidelines issued three years ago. The mandate to provide equal education to all children stems from the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler vs. Doe ruling, which prohibited a school district from charging illegal immigrants extra tuition fees.

Despite the law and 2011 guidance, the administration has received at least 17 complaints alleging wrongful enrollment practices at school around the country, including districts in Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

“That behavior is unacceptable, and it must change,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

In 1982, Chief Justice Burger wrote in the dissenting opinion for Plyler v Doe that “the Constitution does not provide a cure for every social ill, nor does it vest judges with a mandate to try to remedy every social problem.” But that is exactly what the Court decided to do in Plyler—“remedy what it perceive[d] to be the failing of the political process.”

“When the political institutions are not forced to exercise constitutionally allocated powers and responsibilities, those powers, like muscles not used, tend to atrophy,” he wrote. “Today's cases, I regret to say, present yet another example of unwarranted judicial action which, in the long run, tends to contribute to the weakening of our political processes.”

And, more than 30 years later, people wonder how we ended up with such a huge immigration mess on our hands.