6.06.2007

The education of undocumented children protected by the U.S. Constitution

It's a little understood aspect of American law and the rights of undocumented children in the U.S., but 25 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tyler v. Doe that the education of undocumented children is protected under the constitution.

In other words, it is illegal for public schools districts anywhere in America to deny an education to any child based on his/her immigrantion status.

The following are excerpts from Education Week's article on the subject: Amid Immigration Debate, Settled Ground:

Against that backdrop, the Tyler Independent School District this month will reach a milestone in the area of immigrants’ rights: the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe, which barred Tyler—where the case originated—and other public school systems from charging tuition for undocumented children.

"I'm glad we lost the Hispanic [court case], so that those kids could get educated." James Plyler, former superintendent of the Tyler public schools, talks with Mary Ann Zehr about his role in the case. Since that 5-4 decision on June 15, 1982, public schools across the country have been obligated to enroll children regardless of their immigration status. In sharp contrast to the national upheaval over racial desegregation in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, the immigration ruling became a quiet fact of life for educators in Tyler and elsewhere.

“Tyler is a very conservative town. If you conduct a poll—‘Should we pay for the education of illegal immigrants?’—people wouldn’t be for that,” said Andy Bergfeld, 36, the president of the Tyler school board. At the same time, he said, “we understand it’s our job to educate whoever the United States and Texas tells us to educate.”