Booklet - Legal Issues for School Districts

This booklet provides responses to frequently asked questions on the topic of access to education for primary and secondary school aged undocumented children.  Topics include secondary benefits such as extracurricular activities, inquiring about immigration status, reporting undocumented children to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other educational services from local agencies.


Report - Georgetown Human Rights Institute

A year-long research project conducted by Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute and Women’s Refugee Commission, which examines how school districts in four states (Florida, New York, North Carolina and Texas) have fared in ensuring access to public school education for undocumented children. Researchers conclude that barriers to enrollment still exist. For example, the Report finds that undocumented children, who may fulfill all documentation requirements for enrollment, are still discouraged to do so through “testing, grade placement, and prospects of graduation.” The Report also looks at the impact of ICE raids on undocumented children seeking public school education. According to researchers, undocumented children report increased anxiety at the prospects of returning home from a day at school to find that their parents have gone missing. The Report offers several key recommendations to federal, state and local officials.

New York AG Investigation Into School District Enrollment Barriers for Immigrant Children

Beginning in 2014, the New York Attorney General's office, in conjunction with the state's Department of Education, conducted a joint review of over twenty school district’s policies and procedures for enrolling undocumented students.  The investigation began as a result of reports and complaints to the attorney general’s office regarding unlawful inquiries into students’ and/or parents’ immigration status. The investigation determined that twenty school districts throughout the state had violated the law, by requiring information which would likely hinder or effect enrollment of undocumented students, in violation of the U.S Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe.  The investigation also found that school districts diverted students with limited English proficiency into alternative programs that provided English as a Second Language classes, or provided minimal preparation for the high school equivalency exam, but could not result in a high school diploma. As a result of the investigation, school districts entered into assurances of discontinuance with the attorney general, agreeing to amend enrollment materials by removing any “inquiries into citizenship, immigration status, or any other inquiries that might chill or discourage student enrollment on the basis of immigration status.”

Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982).

Landmark Supreme Court case which held that states cannot deny or obstruct undocumented school-age children from enrolling in a public school on the basis of their immigration status. The Court invalidated an amendment to Texas Education Law which denied state funding to schools educating undocumented children and required those schools to deny enrollment to such individuals. In a 5-4 decision, the Court found that although the students were not "legally admitted" to the United States, they were still afforded protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and the state of Texas could not demonstrate a compelling interest for the regulation.