Should Undocumented Children Be Allowed To Attend Public Schools?

| by Jared Keever

Unaccompanied, undocumented children immigrants are entitled to the benefits of an American public education, a newly released fact sheet from the Department of Education says.

Breitbart reports that, according to the education department, those benefits will be extended to the estimated 62,900 children who have entered the United States since October. 

“We have begun to receive inquiries regarding educational services for a specific group of immigrant children who have been in the news – children from Central America who have recently crossed the U.S. - Mexico border,” the fact sheet reads.

The sheet continues on to explain the basic rights of those children and what local communities can do to help with enrollment.

“All children in the United States are entitled to equal access to a public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents' actual or perceived national origin, citizenship, or immigration status,” the fact sheet asserts. “This includes recently arrived unaccompanied children, who are in immigration proceedings while residing in local communities with a parent, family member, or other appropriate adult sponsor.”

Many of the newly arrived students are put in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS. The department offers educational services. Once a child is transferred from the care of HHS to a “sponsor” and is awaiting an immigration status hearing, that child is entitled to public education services, the document explains.

The fact sheet, though, does not represent a policy shift from the Department of Education. A May column from USA Today explained that undocumented children have had a right to public education since a 1982 Supreme Court ruling in the Plyler v. Doe case.

The columnist, Raul Reyes, argued that the court’s decision was not only just, but that allowing the children into schools was smart public policy as well.

“If these children were not in school, they could be at risk for crime, gang activity, drug abuse, or worse,” Reyes wrote. “Since it may take years for our immigration debate to be settled, in the meantime it serves society's interests that all school-age children are in school.”

That column was written in response to news that Attorney General Eric Holder had recently seen fit to remind school districts that they were required by law to educate all children. 

The reminder came in the wake of news that some school districts were demanding to see  Social Security numbers or driver’s licenses of parents before enrolling their children.

Attempts to keep undocumented children out of public schools "weaken our nation … by leaving young people unprepared and ill-equipped to succeed and contribute to what is, in many cases, the only home they have ever known,” Holder said at the time.

Critics like Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, an organization that wants to reduce immigration, disagreed.

“It just seems to send a message to the world, 'We are here to protect those who break immigration laws and we're going to do almost nothing to enforce it,'" Beck said.

Sources: Breitbart, USA Today

Photo Source: Wikipedia