On Monday, November 21, the National Education Association, Alabama Education Association and the National School Boards Association filed an amicus brief challenging Alabama’s H.B. 56. By any measure, H.B. 56 is the country’s harshest immigration law and contains many onerous provisions, not the least of which is a requirement that educators and school staff verify the immigration status of students’ parents and designate undocumented students in annual reports that are provided to the state. This requirement has already had a chilling effect on public schools in many of Alabama’s most under-served communities and has led to many students being pulled out of school due to a parent’s fear of deportation.
On Monday, NEA issued the following statement:
The National Education Association, the Alabama Education Association, and the National School Boards Association today filed a joint amicus brief challenging a law passed by Alabama lawmakers earlier this year. H.B. 56 requires school personnel to verify that newly enrolling students are in the country legally. If parents are unable to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, then the student will be designated as undocumented in annual reports school districts must provide to the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 1982 case, Plyler v. Doe, that states must provide an education to all students, even if they are not in this country legally. The amicus brief argues that the law’s requirement that school personnel check the immigration status of students will cause undocumented parents not to send their children to school and deprive them of their right to an education.
“This law is woefully misguided and assaults the legal rights of children,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “All students should have access to public education. The amicus brief NEA is filing gives voice to our continued commitment to remove H.B. 56 from Alabama’s law books.”
H.B. 56 is by most accounts the harshest immigration law in the United States. In response to it, families are abandoning their homes, workers are quitting their jobs, and small businesses are losing customers. The draconian law could even be interpreted to make it a crime for churches to provide food to undocumented immigrants at a church dinner. Following a U. S. District Court ruling last September upholding most of H.B. 56, hundreds of immigrant families withdrew their children from classes or kept them home. Parents were afraid that sending their children to school would draw attention from authorities.
“Our public schools were created with the promise that all students who walk through their doors would be educated, regardless of the child’s national origin or the economic status of the parents,” said Van Roekel. “Unfortunately, H.B. 56 is having a chilling effect – children have literally vanished from Alabama classrooms. School employees are hired to help students learn, not check their immigration status. What students need most to succeed is an education and this law gets in the way of that.”