NY Investigation Determines Schools Can’t Ask for Students’ Immigration Status

Cortney O'Brien
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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 11:30 AM
NY Investigation Determines Schools Can’t Ask for Students’ Immigration Status

It’s about to get a lot easier for unaccompanied minors and undocumented children to enroll in upstate New York schools. After a state investigation determined that school districts were being too harsh on potential enrollees, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other state officials are demanding they relax their regulations:

The agreement with Schneiderman and the state Education Department will require the districts to remove inquiries into citizenship and immigration status from their enrollment materials and develop new procedures to ensure immigrant students aren’t facing obstacles when they or their parents seek to enroll them in school, he said.

The Attorney General believes this is only right:

“Schoolhouse doors must be open to all students in our diverse state, regardless of their immigration status,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “More than 30 years after the Supreme Court guaranteed a free public education for undocumented children, we must do everything we can to uphold the law and ensure equal access for all our students.”

Everything to “uphold the law”? Interesting choice of words considering these school districts are potentially dealing with children of illegal immigrants. I wonder if the latter respected our rule of law when they bypassed our legal system to enter the country?

The report goes on to say that 20 districts had used enrollment materials that included unlawful inquiries, such asking for copies of Social Security cards, visa status and status as a U.S. citizen or non-citizen.

How is it “unlawful” to ensure that a student and his or her family are residing in this country legally? It seems awfully reasonable to me – not to mention fair.

It’s no surprise that an influx of undocumented children to schools has the potential to create chaos. Classrooms may not be able to cope with the unexpected size. What’s more, these children are being granted services that should be reserved for naturalized citizens. The other side of New York state had to deal with this issue last year. This snippet from the NY Post says it all:

But the costs could soar, because the youths — many of them victims of poverty and abuse — will need state-mandated English-language instruction, free or reduced-price lunch, and a range of other services, including psychological counseling, medical and dental.

Sam Pirozzolo, the vice president of the New York City Parents Union, voiced his concern on behalf of parents in the Big Apple:

“NYC public schools are already failing to meet the needs of the students they have — 70 percent cannot read, write and do math at grade level. How can they handle thousands of new students competing for the same services without things getting worse?”

Certainly, all children deserve the right to an education. Undocumented students can hardly be blamed for their parents' crimes. Yet, if parents and guardians break the law, they should not expect their children to be welcomed with open arms into schools that are already struggling to provide for legally documented students.

I hope the New York Department of Education reconsiders and reinstates these necessary guidelines and inquiries - to not do so would threaten our children’s future.