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Undocumented immigrant children’s rights to attend public schools

All children deserve to learn in an environment where they can grow socially, emotionally and academically. All children deserve a quality education, so that they can grow in confidence, competency and quality of life. All children In the United States, despite immigration status, have the right to an education.

However, many undocumented immigrant families don’t know that their children’s immigration status doesn’t matter for school enrollment. In 1982, the Supreme Court issued Plyler v. Doe, a decision that guarantees undocumented immigrant children the right to free public education from kindergarten through grade 12 and up until the age of 21.

All students deserve to feel safe at school

You may worry that immigration enforcement will threaten your children’s safety at school. However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is not allowed to carry out immigration enforcement at schools, known bus stops or education activities. Schools can only give information to ICE officials with the permission of a parent or student (18 years or older) or if following a judge’s order.

Chicago Public Schools has agreed verbally to protect immigrant families and provide students with a safe and culturally appropriate educational environment.

Immigrant students legal rights

Because the Plyler vs. Doe Supreme Court decision guarantees the education of undocumented students, certain steps must be followed when registering immigrant children for school. Public schools may not:

  1. Require disclosure or documentation of immigration status
  2. Engage in any practices that deny students access to school
  3. Deny enrollment because of a student’s undocumented status
  4. Ask questions that may reveal a student’s undocumented status
  5. Require a social security number without letting you know that giving it is voluntary
  6. Treat undocumented students differently from others to determine the student’s residency

All students also have the right to services and programs like free and reduced meals, English as a second language classes, special education and school activities.

A strong education gives all children the basis for a future that is stable and secure. America’s public schools are a key for immigrant students to realize their dreams of social and economic mobility.

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