Immigration Issues Pose Growing Difficulty For American Schools
Pressure is mounting across the country against illegal immigrants in American schools.
In some areas, schools are responding to shrinking budgets and growing student populations by trying to root out non-citizen students. While federal law restricts this practice, the issue points to the increasing difficulty of managing immigration and education policy in America.
In addition to individual schools and districts being charged with illegally asking students to provide proof of citizenship, some state lawmakers have also supported instituting laws to make this a requirement.
The growing tension prompted the White House to send out an unprecedented nationwide letter reminding schools of their legal obligation to all students.
The letter, co-authored by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, explains:
Recently, we have become aware of student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their or their parents' or guardians' actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status. These practices contravene Federal law.
Almost 30 years ago, the Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe found that a free public K-12 education was the legal right of all children regardless of their immigration status.
Schools can deny students, however, based on district residency. As some recent highly publicized cases have shown, districts can take legal action against families sending their children to schools where they don't actually reside.
The departments took care to delineate what documents schools can and cannot ask for.
To prove residency in the district, schools can ask for documentation such as a lease agreement or copies of bills. Schools may also ask for a child's birth certificate to verify his or her age. Social security numbers can also be asked for -- on a voluntary basis only -- to help identify students.
Schools cannot, however, discriminate if families cannot provide social security numbers or American birth certificates.
Even for students who are U.S. citizens, immigration issues can still affect their ability to get an education. Children can get caught in the middle of their parent's or caretakers' deportation.
In Texas, one mixed-status family found themselves facing a difficult situation when husband and father Marcos Perdomo, the only non-citizen in his immediate family, was deported. The Washington Post reports the wife and six children were torn between moving to Mexico and staying, without him, in the U.S. for better schools and jobs.
According to The Washington Post, the federal government is making a push to deport 400,000 illegal immigrants, which will drive more broken families to make tough decisions when it comes to getting an education for their children.
Immigration remains a hotly debated political and social issue in America, with education for immigrant families tangled up in a cluster of controversial policies, each of which affect the lives of illegal students and children of families with illegal members.
Viewing the issue through a personal lens, we ask -- what would you do to get your child an education?