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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

NY Schools Shut Out Immigrants, Study Says

MANHATTAN (CN) - Although the Supreme Court ordered public schools across the nation to open their doors to all children, regardless of immigration status, more than three decades ago, dozens of New York districts may not have gotten the message.

Releasing a survey covering one-fifth of statewide districts on Thursday, the New York Civil Liberties Union found that 73 out of 159 districts still required applicants to have a valid birth certificates. These included 25 districts in the New York City metro area with high immigrant populations.

Thirteen New York City districts and nine other statewide districts ask for the student's "date of entry into the United States," the NYCLU says.

Such requirements, and others, violate the "equal right to a public school education" enshrined in the Constitution, the NYCLU's executive director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.

"The NYCLU has presented data to the State Education Department for years showing that many districts across the state are discriminating against immigrant children and preventing them from enrolling in schools," Lieberman added. "It's shocking that the SED has not acted sooner or more decisively to guarantee the right of all New York children to an education."

The New York state Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A day before releasing the survey, Lieberman sent a four-page letter to the SED's Commissioner John King reminding him of the ongoing problem.

"This situation has reached a crisis point, with each day bringing news stories of children denied access to the basic human right to education," the letter states.

The NYCLU said it sent him a similar letter four years ago announcing the results of a prior survey that indicated one-fifth of statewide schools violated the rights of undocumented children. These findings inspired King to issue new guidance to schools on the issue, the NYCLU says.

"Shockingly, even among those districts that made revisions, dozens have yet to meet the standards set out in the 2010 SED guidance, the letter states.

Public education for all children, even those whose parents entered the country illegally, has been the law of the United States ever since the Supreme Court struck down a Texas statute in the case of Plyler v. Doe in 1982.

Writing for the 5-to-4 majority, Justice William Brennan noted that "the illegal alien of today may well be the legal alien of tomorrow."

"Without an education, these undocumented children, '[a]lready disadvantaged as a result of poverty, lack of English-speaking ability, and undeniable racial prejudices ... will become permanently locked into the lowest socio-economic class," he added in a passionately worded opinion.

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