Alabama Immigration Law Keeping Hispanic Children From Attending School
Hundreds of Hispanic students in Alabama aren’t showing up at school after a federal judge upheld the state’s harsh anti-immigration law, one of the first major consequences of the law, according to a report from USA Today.
While federal law mandates that states provide K-12 education to undocumented children, Alabama’s law requires schools to verify immigration status for those enrolling—the first state to do so. And despite the state’s assurance that such information will only be used by the Department of Education to track spending on such students, the practice is proving to be an intimidation tactic prompting hundreds of parents to keep their children home.
In the state’s capital alone, 231 Hispanic children were absent last Thursday, the day the law took effect, Montgomery Superintendent Barbara Thompson tells USA Today. Huntsville City Schools reported 207 absent Hispanic students and other districts reported parents withdrawing their children.
“Obviously, there's a fear factor about what the law is in regard to the schools,” said Keith Ward, a spokesman for Huntsville City Schools, told USA Today. “We're not doing any enforcement. We’re in the business and have the obligation to educate all students. For us, it’s just data collection.”
In addition to jeopardizing the educational opportunities of many young Americans, the law could impact all Alabama children; just a few hundred students dropping out could mean millions less in education funding for the state.
The Center for American Progress, our parent organization, called the judge’s ruling a “twisted legal opinion that would inspire the envy of a circus contortionist,” highlighting several of the
“These legal conclusions are so extreme and such an outlier from rulings on similar cases that they would be laughable if not so dangerous,” the statement reads, continuing:
Among other things, Judge Blackburn effectively concluded that Alabama could:
- Require schools to check the immigration status of their students and their parents (in direct contravention of binding Supreme Court precedent)
- Require the state’s police officers to ask for immigration papers from anyone they come in contact with who looks or sounds foreign (despite numerous other courts concluding that such policies are preempted by federal law)
- Create a crime for failing to carry registration documents (in violation of Supreme Court precedent)
- Mandate the indefinite jailing of any undocumented immigrant driving without a license (almost certainly a constitutional due process violation)
The Arizona Daily Wildcat, hailing from a state grappling with its own harsh anti-immigration laws, said the reaction from Hispanic parents “can’t be ignored.”
“The law uses fear to deter Alabama’s Hispanic population from education, even if officials try to claim otherwise,” the paper says. “Public and secondary education is a protected constitutional right, but immigrant parents will fear being traced. The verbal equivalent of a pinky promise not to arrest anyone won’t soothe these fears.”
The Department of Justice, along with the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed an appeal against the recent ruling on Monday.
Brian Stewart is the communications manager at Campus Progress.