Minorities, Immigration & Educational Policy in the News


Education Week Snippet: “White House Initiative Targets Education for African Americans” by Lesli A. Maxwell.

President Obama signed an executive order to launch the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The purpose of the initiative is to help high-school and college-bound African Americans by creating “greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career.”

Click here to see full article for a list of the initiative’s specific goals and more information.

U.S. News and World Report Snippet: “States’ DREAM Acts Could Deter High School Dropouts” by Kelsey Sheehy.

“The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act [or DREAM Act] provides a path to citizenship for undocumented students who entered the U.S. as children if they graduate from high school, earn a GED, or are accepted to or enrolled in college.

However, the newest version of the DREAM Act does not provide federal financial aid to undocumented students, and allows states to choose whether undocumented students qualify for in-state college tuition rates. Thus far, eleven states have opted to enact their own versions of the DREAM Act and allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities including: Texas, New York, California, Utah, Washington, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Connecticut.

Educational scholars suggest that providing undocumented students with eligibility for in-state tuition rates through the DREAM Act makes college more affordable. Making college a more attainable goal for students will motivate them to stay in school and deter dropouts.

Click here to see the full article for more information.

A Summary of U.S. Supreme Court 2011-12 Term Decisions Affecting Children & Education

Education Week’s “High Court Highlights” of the 2011-12 term, provides a nice recap of the Supreme Court’s high-profile cases that have left implications on public education, juvenile justice, and more.

IMMIGRATION: Arizona v. United States

  • Court upheld a measure requiring police to determine the immigration status of someone they stop, and reasonably suspect to be illegal. This decision left implications as to how courts will rule on states immigration measures such as laws requiring schools to make determinations about the citizenship status of new students.

HEALTH CARE & FEDERAL SPENDING: National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius

  • Court’s struck down the Medicaid Expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act which left implications on how the Court might rule on statutes adopted under Congress’s spending-clause authority. This includes statutes such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

JUVENILE JUSTICE: Miller v. Alabama

  • Court held that states may not sentence juveniles convicted of murder under the age of 18 to life-without-parole. Rather, trial courts are to take into consideration their “immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences.”

BROADCAST INDECENCY: Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, Inc.

  • Court held that FCC standards restricting broadcasters from airing television content with expletives and brief nudity, during times when children are likely to be in the TV audience, violated the due process rights of broadcasters.


  • Given the Court’s decision to uphold the federal definition of “child,” children born through in vitro fertilization are not guaranteed to receive Social Security survivor’s benefits in the event of a parent’s death.

Click here for more of Education Week’s “High Court Highlights” and additional information.

Alabama immigration law upheld: What effect will it have on children?


Last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the Northern District of Alabama ruled on key portions of Alabama’s strict new immigration law. Several provisions of the legislation make Alabama’s HB 56 stricter than Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

Alabama Immigration Law Rally

Judge Blackburn blocked several provisions of the law from taking effect, including a prohibition on allowing undocumented immigrants to enroll in college and a ban on helping or harboring undocumented immigrants. However, the District Court failed to block a provision that allows police to stop any “suspicious” person to check their immigration status. The Court also allowed a provision that requires schools to collect information about students’ immigration status:

Judge Blackburn also refused to block the law’s Section 28, the one requiring public schools to “determine whether the student enrolling in public school was born outside the jurisdiction of the United States or is the child of an alien not lawfully present in the United States.”

The provision requires students or their parents to present an original birth certificate at the time of enrollment. For those who cannot present proper documentation, schools are required to assume they are aliens “unlawfully present” in the United States. The measure requires schools to maintain statistics about the numbers of such students.

The U.S. Department of Justice, in its motion seeking to block the Alabama law, said the schools provision “would have a chilling effect on school attendance by children who are aliens or whose parents are aliens.” […]

“For purposes of determining the reach of [Section 28], the court assumes that school officials will not seek to determine the immigration status of parents beyond examination of the child’s birth certificate, and that such information is not included on the birth certificate,” the judge said. “Therefore, Section 28 does not compel school officials to determine the immigration status of a parent of a student.”

Here’s more information on how the law will be implemented by school districts:

The law, signed by Alabama’s Republican governor in June, still gives all students the right to enroll in schools regardless of their immigration status. But if it takes effect, public schools will have to report the status of each student to the state department of education. When doing this, schools will code each child with a “0” or a “1”.

If parents can’t provide a birth certificate or choose not to, they will be sent a letter asking for other documentation regarding their child’s immigration status. They will have 30 days to provide it, after which their child will be labeled a “0.” A memo from the state superintendent said this number can’t be used to deny any student admission to school.

It is likely that the decision will be appealed. But it is unclear what effect the law will have (or already has had) on student attendance. Although Judge Blackburn recognized the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe, which held that no state may deny a K-12 student the right to a public education regardless of immigration status, parents are apprehensive. The Birmingham News has reported that many of the 120,000 undocumented immigrants in Alabama have already left the state since the law’s passage.

Many questions remained unanswered: What will the state do with the information it receives from school districts about undocumented students and parents? What will happen to natural-born children whose parents are undocumented?

UPDATE (14 Oct 2011): The 11th Court of Appeals temporarily blocked parts of the Alabama immigration law, including portions requiring schools to acquire information about parents’ immigration status. The Court will make a final determination on the law in the next few months, after hearing arguments and reviewing briefs. More coverage at the NY Times.