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Court Rules Alabama Can’t Ask Students About Immigration Status

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An Alabama law that required schools to ask the immigration status of students enrolled in the state’s public schools was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court this week.

The schools were supposed to ask for proof of legal status and report data on undocumented children to the state. The law never barred undocumented students from schools, because the Plyler v. Doe U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteed immigrant children a free public education.

However, the judges in this Alabama case found that asking students’ status could still possibly result in barring children from school. After the law was initially passed, many parents pulled their children out of school. Many students returned after its implementation was blocked.

Both the Obama administration and private organizations filed suit against Alabama’s immigration law.

At one point, an official from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division warned the state superintendent of schools that the law hindered the ability of Latino children to obtain a quality education. The warning said that the law discouraged immigrant parents’ involvement, led to children missing class days and schools becoming less welcoming to Hispanic children.

The judges wrote that fear  could significantly deter undocumented children from enrolling in school.

“Consequently, section 28 operates to place undocumented children, and their families, in an impossible dilemma: either admit your unlawful status outright or concede it through silence,” the court ruled, according to The Birmingham News. “Given the important role of education in our society, and the injuries that would arise from deterring unlawfully present children from seeking the benefit of education, we conclude that the equities favor enjoining this provision,” the court ruled.