Immigration reform and issues related to undocumented immigrant policies can be intense topics of conversation. There are many people who have strong opinions on both sides of the argument. However, you would think some of those points of view would be toned down when it comes to children and education.
Recently, Kimberly Hefling, with the Associated Press, published an article detailing the concern that the Obama Administration has about reports of school districts making it more difficult for children to enroll in school if they are undocumented immigrants. This is a problem because school districts are expected to enroll every student, regardless of immigration status. This issue has become so serious that the Justice Department and Education Department have reminded schools and districts that they have a legal obligation to enroll these children.
In addition to reminding these educational facilities of their duties, the government has stated that schools need to be “flexible in deciding which documents they will accept to prove a student's age or residency.” Furthermore, school personnel should not specifically ask a student' parent about his or her immigration status or whether the parent has a driver's license. This policy was put in place in order to avoid a situation where a student is prevented from enrolling because of a parent's immigration status.
There have been reports from states all around the country stating that students are being discriminated against because of their immigration status. In fact, the Education Department has said that it has received 17 complaints since 2011 from the following states: Colorado, North Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, New Mexico and the District of Columbia. Further, the Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, stated that there have even been some instances of school personnel improperly “requiring a child's visa status or date of entry into the United States.”
These reports have led some officials to call for action. The Justice Department works on its own, as well as with the Education Department, in order to make some much-needed changes. So far, the “Justice Department has entered into settlement agreements with school districts in states such as Georgia, Florida, and Virginia.” The Justice Department has also been working with officials from the state education department in Alabama who have already sent memos to school districts, reminding them not to “ bar or discourage students from enrollment because they lack a Social Security number or birth certificate or because their parents don't have an Alabama driver's license.”
In addition, there have been settlements with the Henry County, Georgia school district and the Palm Beach County district in Florida. Georgia's district promised to honor a parent's decision not to provide a child's Social Security number and not let that prohibit the child from enrolling. Meanwhile, the Florida district said that it would provide translators for those who need them to help them enroll and to not deny students enrollment because of homelessness and lack documentation.
What else can be done? What would you like to see accomplished at the school districts in Arizona? Are there areas where we are lacking?