The concept that knowledge is a gift and should be available to all is a noble one, but in order to obtain knowledge—one that is accepted by all—obtaining an education is an essential tool in showing the world that you have it. However, for some the pursuit of knowledge is barred due to their status in-regards to their citizenship.
Currently, in New York City there is a rising blockage that immigrant children are finding when not being permitted to enroll into school. Several school districts within the city have requirements for enrollment that these young children cannot meet. While these school districts require certain requirements to be met in order for children to be enrolled, these requirements go against a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits public schools from denying any child an education; especially children who are considered illegal immigrants.
Back in 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court was presented with a Texan 1975 state law that allowed the state to deny funds to any school within its local school districts that educated “illegal aliens” or immigrant children. This argument was known as Plyler vs. Doe, and when it came before the supreme court for discussion it was seen for what it was: wrong.
After deliberating over the merit of this Texan law, the U.S. Supreme Court found that immigrants “though not citizens of the United States or Texas, are people ‘in any ordinary sense of the term’ and, therefore, are afforded Fourteenth Amendment protections,” meaning that while immigrants are not legal citizens the law should not “severely disadvantaged the children of illegal aliens, by denying them the right to an education,” and found that Texas could not disallow a child the right to an education.
Since this decision was made back in the early 80s it has become a mandate accepted by most within the educational world, however some states have not kept followed this decision and have certain school districts that are still blocking immigrant children from an education due to their requirements.
Within New York City there are 86 school districts that require children enrollees to possess documents that state their legal status. It is this very requirement that is discouraging immigrant parents from enrolling their immigrant children. These findings come from a survey which was released by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).
According to the NYCLU survey, there has been an undergoing statewide study since 2010 that, “found that one-in-five school districts were putting up illegal barriers to immigrant youth,” also the survey documented how such the requirement of documentation comes from, “139 offending school districts and found many are still out of compliance with the law.”
But the school districts that choose to uphold this illegal and unjust requirement are not the only party involved to be blamed.
When it comes to school districts that deny children enrollment into schools because of their citizenship status, the State Education Department (SED) can be blamed as well.
“The NYCLU has presented data to the State Education Department for years showing that many districts across the state are discriminating against immigrant children and preventing them from enrolling in schools. It’s shocking that the SED has not acted sooner or more decisively to guarantee the right of all New York children to an education,” said the NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, describing the lack of response by the SED
When such incidents are being acted upon, the SED’s failure to act on its own policies which allow students of immigrant status to enroll and obtain a public education can be seen as another outlet to point the finger at for failing to enforce it.
“Today’s survey demonstrates that the State Education Department (SED) has failed to enforce its own guidelines regarding immigrant student enrollment, despite being aware of the problems for years,” said the NYCLU, in a press release announcing their survey’s findings.
The survey findings showed that among 75 school districts—25 of which located within the metro area of NYC—that contained a high populace of immigrants the schools required their student enrollees to have birth certificates; 19 of these school districts demanded that students have their original birth certificate. What this requirement means is that for parents who picked up their entire lives and family and moved to another place for a better life may risk their children not being able to attend school because they cannot prove…their existence.
Meanwhile, the survey also showed that 13 school districts within NYC wanted students to have their date of entry into the U.S. at the time of their enrollment. For 16 districts immigrant children were required to have an immigration status in order to enroll.
“All children have an equal right to a public school education, regardless of their immigration status,” Lieberman.
The condemning of the immigrant child seems to be a recent trend in the matter of this country’s issue regarding immigration and its reformation. However, the children are not to blame; in fact the blame should be met on the politicians who fail to truly see who are the culprits when it comes to this country’s economic slump or increase of violence: not the immigrant but those who profit of such occurrences.
Whatever the requirements are, the overall requirements of said districts are not only disallowing children from obtaining an education if they fail to meet the requirements but labeling them as the other because of their citizenship if they are able to provide the necessary requirements.