Holder, Duncan: Schools Must Not Discourage Enrollment of Undocumented Students

U.S. Departments of Justice and Education provide updated guidance to help schools comply with federal law and Supreme Court decision.
Published: May 8, 2014

WASHINGTON – Claiming the Departments of Justice and Education continue to hear “troubling reports” that school districts are discouraging the enrollment of children of immigrants who are here illegally, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Arne Duncan today announced updated guidance to ensure enrollment processes provide all children equal access to an education.

Holder said that actions by some districts have had “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.”

In response to these reports, the departments are releasing updates to guidance issued in 2011 to help schools understand their responsibilities under the Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe and federal civil rights laws. The guidelines include examples of permissible enrollment practices, as well as examples of the types of information that may not be used as a basis for denying a student entrance to school. 

The updated guidance documents emphasize the need for flexibility in accepting documents from parents to prove a child’s age and to show that a child resides within a school’s attendance area. They also provide specific examples of the types of documents that many schools have accepted. Additionally, the guidance documents remind schools that they may not require certain documents – such as a parent’s state-issued driver’s license – where such a requirement would prevent a student from enrolling because of his or her parent’s immigration status.

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“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,” said Holder.  “The Justice Department will do everything it can to make sure schools meet this obligation.  We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.”

“We want to be sure every school leader understands the legal requirements under the Constitution and federal laws, and it is our hope that this update will address some of the misperceptions out there,” said Secretary Arne Duncan. “The message here is clear: let all children who live in your district enroll in your public schools.”

All updated guidance material from today’s call will be available in both Spanish and English here.

Photo by United States Department of Justice [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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