LATINO VOICES

New York School Districts To Stop Asking About Immigration Status

02/19/2015 01:46 pm ET | Updated Apr 21, 2015
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NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - School districts in 14 New York counties have agreed to stop inquiring about the immigration status of prospective students and their guardians, the state attorney general said on Thursday.

Twenty school districts had illegally asked for items including copies of Social Security cards and the disclosure of visa status in their enrollment material, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

"Schoolhouse doors must be open to all students in our diverse state, regardless of their immigration status," Schneiderman said. "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."

Requiring the disclosure of citizenship and immigration status by students or their guardians can discourage undocumented students from enrolling, impeding their access and right to public education, Schneiderman's office said.

In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution undocumented immigrant students were guaranteed under the right to a free elementary and secondary public education.

The attorney general's office investigation into the affected school districts followed an October article in The New York Times that said several districts had unlawfully inquired about immigration status, the Times said.

An initial New York State Education Department review of school district enrollment policies focused on four districts in the New York City metropolitan area that had recently seen an influx of unaccompanied minors from Central and South America.

The attorney general's office expanded its investigation after receiving complaints about districts from around the state that were unlawfully making immigration inquiries.

In addition to removing immigration-related questions from enrollment materials, the affected school districts must provide training to personnel about proper enrollment procedures.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney)

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