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Do school enrollment procedures treat undocumented kids fairly?

Last month, The New York Times published an eye-opening report outlining how many undocumented immigrant children, including hundreds of the unaccompanied minors who fled to the U.S. border earlier this year to escape gang-related violence in Central America, are being denied access to area classrooms.

The report discussed how many of these children have been excluded from public school enrollment on Long Island because of 1) the inability of their relatives or sponsors to produce documents that would satisfy residency requirements, or 2) the presence of guardianship obstacles that stand in direct opposition to legal guidance on enrollment procedures issued by the New York State Education Department back in September.

In response to this story, both NYSED and the attorney general's office announced that they would be launching a comprehensive compliance review of enrollment procedures in school districts in Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, where upwards of 3,000 of the unaccompanied minors currently reside.

Specifically, the compliance review will aim to accomplish the following:

  • Determine whether school districts have purposely or inadvertently erected strict enrollment requirements that serve to discourage immigrant children, and/or have failed to consider whether these enrollment requirements are preempted by federal law.
  • Inform school districts on how to improve their enrollment requirements.
  • Increase awareness among immigrant advocacy groups of a process allowing enrollment denials to be appealed to the state education commissioner.

"Schoolhouse doors must be open to every student in our increasingly diverse state, regardless of their immigration status," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

It is worth noting that the Supreme Court of the United States held in the 1982 decision Plyler v. Doe that undocumented immigrant children were guaranteed the right to a free public education under the U.S. Constitution.

It will be interesting to see what the result of the review by NYSED and the AG's office reveals, and whether more children are allowed to go back to school ...

If you would like to learn more about your rights and options as they relate to family immigration, employment-based immigration or any other immigration-related matter, consider speaking with a skilled and dedicated legal professional as soon as possible.

Source: The New York Times, "Immigrants' school cases spur enrollment review in New York," Benjamin Mueller, Oct. 22, 2014

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