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All Immigrant Children Have the Right to Attend Public Schools

Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released guidelines which clarified that all children, regardless of immigration status, have the right to attend public schools. This announcement builds upon previous guidelines issued in 2011 by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education that informed schools of their responsibilities to provide all children with an education. The guidelines are meant to improve enrollment practices and instruct schools on which documents they are required to collect from parents. For example, schools cannot require parents to provide driver's licenses or social security numbers as a basis for enrollment. Furthermore, the Departments of Justice and Education emphasize that schools should be flexible on which documents to accept from parents that prove the child's age and residence within the district.

Holder said “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." Meanwhile,  Duncan proclaimed “the message here is clear: let all children who live in your district enroll in your public schools."

In the 1982 case Plyer v. Doe, the Supreme Court struck down a state statute in Texas that authorized school districts to deny enrollment to students who did not have legal immigration status. Since then, public schools have been required to admit all students, regardless of immigration status.

Fact sheets about the guidelines can be found on the Department of Justice website, in English and Spanish.