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DOJ Updates Guidelines Removing Educational Barriers for Children of Undocumented Immigrants

On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Arne Duncan announced updated guidance for public elementary and secondary schools to ensure enrollment processes are consistent with the law and provide equal access to an education to all children – regardless of their backgrounds.

The new updated guidance complements that issued in 2011 to help schools understand their responsibilities under the Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe, as also federal civil rights laws, to provide all children equal access to education regardless of the immigration status of their parents.

Attorney General Eric Holder said on the issue, “Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.” He further added, “The Justice Department will do everything it can to make sure schools meet this obligation.  We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.”

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Secretary Arne Duncan echoed Holder and said, “We want to be sure every school leader understands the legal requirements under the Constitution and federal laws, and it is our hope that this update will address some of the misperceptions out there … The message here is clear: let all children who live in your district enroll in your public schools.”

The updated guidance documents include a guidance letter to states and school districts and a fact sheet and Q and A document. Collectively, they emphasize the need to be flexible in accepting documents from parents in proving a child’s age or residence within a school’s attendance area. The documents also remind schools that they may not require certain documents where such a requirement would prevent a student from enrolling due to the immigration status of his or her parents.

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