AL Immigration Law Targets Children
In June, sweeping legislation meant to clamp down on illegal immigration was passed with large majorities in the Republican-controlled Alabama House and Senate. The measure, H.B. 56, was praised and signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley, who hailed it as “the strongest immigration bill in the country.” Two provisions of H.B. 56 deal with children and public education: One would bar any undocumented immigrant from enrolling in a public college after high school graduation, and another would require public schools to determine the immigration status of newly enrolled students. Although these two provisions have been preliminarily halted while the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals considers the law’s constitutionality, they are still troubling and unfair to the most innocent individuals involved in the immigration debate.
Alabama legislators seem to have overlooked this case and the precedent it set, which grants children of undocumented immigrants full access to a public education. Although the provision in H.B. 56 requires schools to determine the immigration status of only newly enrolled students, the tactic of utilizing public schools as a forum to determine immigration status still led to the absence of up to 5,300 Hispanic students across the state in the two weeks after the law took effect; many parents now feel that schools are no longer one of the few safe places for their children.
Almost immediately after it was passed, H.B. 56 was challenged in court. The law survived mostly intact in its first court challenge and has now been brought before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has blocked the provision requiring schools to determine the immigration status of their students. The Appeals Court is expediting the appeals process and expects to hear arguments in the case within the next two months.
Until this case is decided, children should continue to receive a public education without the threat of deportation hanging over them and their families. Targeting immigrant children, many of whom were brought to this country through no action or decision of their own, is inexcusable.
Photo courtesy of the Press-Register.