Equity & Diversity

Judge Refuses to Block Ala. Immigration Law’s School Provisions

By Nirvi Shah — September 28, 2011 2 min read
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A federal judge Wednesday blocked provisions of Alabama’s controversial new immigration law but kept in place the parts of the law that require schools to collect information about students’ immigration status.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn blocked a provision of the law that would make it a crime to knowingly harbor or conceal illegal immigrants and another that would make it a crime for them to work in the state, the Montgomery Advertiser reports.

The U.S. Department of Justice had requested an injunction that would have kept the entire law from taking effect. But the judge found that the Justice Department’s request didn’t meet the requirements for an injunction for other provisions, including the one affecting schoolchildren.

She hasn’t yet ruled on a separate injunction request from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Immigration Law Center, which said its arguments for blocking the law were different than the Justice Department’s.

The judge’s ruling doesn’t mean schools will begin collecting students’ immigration status just yet. Her initial injunction of the entire law lasts through Sept. 29, and as the PBS NewsHour noted, her rulings are likely to be appealed. That could keep the law from taking effect for months or years.

“These are really extreme provisions that are not likely to stand up to...constitutional provisions, which are clearly designed to send a message to immigrants and to foreigners in Alabama that they’re not welcome,” Mary Bauer of the Southern Poverty Law Center told the NewsHour.

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.

In the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe, the court ruled that all children in the U.S. have the right to a free kindergarten through 12th grade education regardless of their immigration status.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.