LOS ANGELES, CA – A Latino civil rights group warned two Arizona school districts on Friday that enrollment forms seeking information about citizenship status violate the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that guarantees every child the right to a public K-12 education regardless of immigration status
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) sent letters to Coolidge Unified School District (CSUD) and St. Johns Unified School District (SJUSD) in response to enrollment forms for the upcoming school year posted on the districts’ websites. The enrollment forms request information about the parents’ or student’s citizenship status and students’ social security information, in violation of a decades-old prohibition on requiring proof of legal immigration status.
“The Supreme Court recognized nearly 40 years ago that our nation must provide an education to all children in order to continue to be a world leader,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “In these troubled times, school districts must facilitate enrollment and education of all children by eliminating all improper barriers.”
The letters cite Plyler v. Doe, the MALDEF-led lawsuit that resulted in the 1982 Supreme Court ruling that guarantees all children, including undocumented immigrants, unfettered access to public schools and bars school districts from requiring students or their parents to provide proof of citizenship or from creating policies that would deter children from attending school.
MALDEF’s letters to CUSD and SJUSD request that the districts eliminate references to citizenship status and delete the request for social security numbers.
“Because anti-immigrant rhetoric has become prevalent, it is more important now than ever that school districts ensure that students are not deterred from enrolling in school as a result of unlawful questions on registration forms,” said MALDEF attorney Juan Rodriguez.
Coolidge Unified School District is in Pinal County, about 60 miles east of Phoenix. The district serves about 2,000 students at five schools. St. Johns Unified School District is located in Apache County in northeast part of Arizona; it serves 804 students in four schools.