Immigrant Students Return to Alabama Schools in Face of Recent Crackdown

In Alabama, the crackdown is on: as part of its tough stance on immigration, the state is requiring public schools to report the immigration status of students starting September 1, 2011. Alabama is the first state to enact such legislation. With the new law looming are the numbers of potentially illegal immigrants, mostly Hispanic, diminishing? Most schools, Education Insider finds, are reporting a surprising trend.

By Harrison Howe


Threat of New Law Having Little Effect

One might think that a law forcing parents to show documentation about their residency status when enrolling their children in public schools in a state that is coming down hard on illegal immigrants might result in decreased enrollment of the children in question, but a recent check by The Associated Press shows otherwise. In the first few days of the new school year, those schools checked reported no decrease in the number of Hispanic students attending classes, and in a few cases there was even an increase in Hispanic attendance.


Some believe it's what one lawyer called in a recent Huffington Post article a 'get your child in before the deadline' mentality. Basically, the law will not affect those students who were enrolled in school prior to September 1st. Others cite the law: most specifically, Plyler vs. Doe. In that 1982 case, the Supreme Court decided that states were bound legally to provide an education to all children regardless of their immigration status.

Armed with that legality, an advocacy group called the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama worked with Hispanic parents to help them understand the law and to urge them to continue sending their children to school. Meanwhile, Alabama legislators stress that the status reporting is not a prohibitive measure and that it is simply being used to determine how much money the state is spending on educating illegal immigrants.

Those who oppose the new law fear that it will result in a mass exodus of Hispanics from Alabama counties with the largest Spanish-speaking populations. Some go as far as to say that the new law is simply a scare tactic designed for just that purpose.

And checking the status of illegal students is far from the harshest elements of Alabama's new law. The legislation extends to checking the status of suspected immigrants stopped by police, barring immigrants from enrolling in college and forbidding residents from giving illegal immigrants a ride.

Opponents of the new legislation also say that it violates the civil rights of immigrants. The law is being challenged in the U.S. District Court in Huntsville.

Torn between legal and educational obligations, teachers and school officials across the country face a dilemma regarding the status of immigrant students.

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