The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1982 in the case of Plyler v. Doe that undocumented students have a right to an education. Yesterday, the state of Alabama effectively terminated that right for immigrant children by allowing the implementation of the nation’s harshest immigration enforcement law.
Chief U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn upheld H.B. 56, despite legal challenges from the Obama Administration, the ACLU and other civil rights organizations. LIRS strongly opposes the law and is particularly concerned about its impact on communities, families and children.
Laws like H.B. 56 send the misguided message that the best way to resolve our nation’s broken immigration system is to “attack every area” of the lives of undocumented immigrants. Among other provisions, the law requires K-12 public schools in Alabama to check the immigration status of all students. If students and their families know their immigration status will be scrutinized, they will be discouraged from enrolling in school. Targeting school-age children and denying them education would cause them to grow up in the shadows without the ability to learn and fulfill their potential.
The law also prohibits state courts from upholding contracts signed by undocumented people, allows police officers to demand proof of citizenship from anyone they suspect may be undocumented and criminalizes any business with an undocumented immigrant.
LIRS joins a large group of organization, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU Immigrant’s Rights Project, and Alabama faith leaders in denouncing HB 56. In July, Myron Allenstein of Gadsden, Alabama, a lay Lutheran leader, suggested that instead of implementing this law, “Alabama [should] embrace these hard-working people who give much more than they take, and welcome them with Southern hospitality and Christian love and charity.”