The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Timothy M. Phelps, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Citing “troubling reports” of school districts discriminating against children of immigrants in the country illegally, the Justice and Education departments on Thursday issued new guidance to schools on what identification they can demand of students trying to enroll.

In a letter to school administrators, the departments restricted the type of documents officials can demand. Schools have a right to verify a child’s residency in the district, the letter said, but they may not require parents to produce a driver’s license or Social Security number to establish they are in the country legally.

The new guidance, an update of a letter sent to schools three years ago, is based on a 1982 Supreme Court decision that children of immigrants in the U.S. illegally have a right to attend public schools.

In a statement, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that despite the earlier guidance, “we have continued to hear troubling reports of actions — being taken by school districts around the country — that have a chilling effect on student enrollment, raising barriers for undocumented children and children from immigrant families who seek to receive the public education to which they are entitled.

“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. We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.”

The departments told school systems that they may require parents to produce documents such as utility bills or leases to establish residency, except in the case of homeless children, who must be enrolled in any case.

They also told school officials that they may not require a family to produce a birth certificate to prove their child’s age, encouraging officials to be flexible and accept other documentation, such as a family Bible.

The Justice Department said it had entered settlement agreements over enrollment issues with school districts in states including Georgia, Florida and Virginia, and had less formal discussions in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas.

But James A. Ferg-Cadima, a lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the problem was not limited to any one region. He said MALDEF had handled recent complaints in Illinois, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

Sometimes, he said, the problem is driven by school clerks who don’t understand the laws, and other times it is animus by school officials toward immigrants. He said MALDEF had come across instances of school clerks using “underground guides” provided by anti-immigrant groups.

“Sometimes (the officials) are anti-immigrant, and in other cases it’s just sheer confusion,” Ferg-Cadima said.

Photo: Wallyg via Flickr

Want more immigration analysis? Sign up for our daily email newsletter! 

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

President Joe Biden

The price of gasoline is not Joe Biden's fault, nor did it break records. Adjusted for inflation, it was higher in 2008 when Republican George W. Bush was president. And that wasn't Bush's fault, either.

We don't have to like today's inflation, but that problem, too, is not Biden's doing. Republicans are nonetheless hot to pin the rap on him. Rising prices, mostly tied to oil, have numerous causes. There would be greater supply of oil and gas, they say, if Biden were more open to approving pipelines and more drilling on public land.

Keep reading... Show less
Youtube Screenshot

Heat deaths in the U.S. peak in July and August, and as that period kicks off, a new report from Public Citizen highlights heat as a major workplace safety issue. With basically every year breaking heat records thanks to climate change, this is only going to get worse without significant action to protect workers from injury and death.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration admits that government data on heat-related injury, illness, and death on the job are “likely vast underestimates.” Those vast underestimates are “about 3,400 workplace heat-related injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work per year from 2011 to 2020” and an average of 40 fatalities a year. Looking deeper, Public Citizen found, “An analysis of more than 11 million workers’ compensation injury reports in California from 2001 through 2018 found that working on days with hotter temperatures likely caused about 20,000 injuries and illnesses per year in that state, alone—an extraordinary 300 times the annual number injuries and illnesses that California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) attributes to heat.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}