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Holder: Schools must enroll children of immigrants in U.S. illegally

Justice and Education departments announce new guidelines for schools and immigrant children

Citing “troubling reports” of schools districts across the U.S. discriminating against the children of immigrants in the country illegally, the Justice and Education departments on Thursday issued new guidance to schools on what identification they can demand of new students trying to enroll.

In a letter to school administrators, the two departments tightened restrictions on the documents the officials can demand.

Though schools have a right to establish a child’s residency in a school district, they may not require parents to produce a driver’s license or Social Security number to establish they are in the country legally, the letter said.

The new guidance, an update of another letter sent to schools three years ago, is based on a 1982 Supreme Court decision saying that children of immigrants in the U.S. illegally have a right to attend public schools.

Despite the earlier guidance, said Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., “we have continued to hear troubling reports of actions -- being taken by school districts around the country -- that have a chilling effect on student enrollment, raising barriers for undocumented children and children from immigrant families who seek to receive the public education to which they are entitled.”

Holder said, “Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin. We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.”

The two departments told school systems that they may require parents to produce a utility bill or a lease to establish residency, except in the case of homeless children, who must be enrolled in any case.

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