On Monday, March 26, 2018, Hackensack, New Jersey school board officials unanimously approved the Access to Education, Student Privacy and Immigration Enforcement policy. The regulations under this policy will help protect undocumented public school students and their families in two ways:
- The school is prohibited from requesting information that identifies a student’s immigration status or would make it easier to detain undocumented immigrants—for example, requesting a student’s birth certificate or driver’s license. Pursuant to the policy’s regulations, any requests for information about a student would have to first be forwarded to both the district attorney and the school superintendent for review. Also, if a student was being sought out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, the parents or guardians of that student would have to be notified.
- ICE officers are prohibited from entering schools unless they have a signed judicial warrant.
The federal government has already classified public schools as “sensitive locations,” meaning they are locations where ICE officials do not usually conduct operations (for example, calling for information about a student’s address or a copy of a student’s birth certificate). In a news article for NorthJersey.com, Johanna Calle, a Board of Education member and the director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, expressed her concern that undocumented students may not be safe from immigration enforcement while attending public school. “Although technically the federal government has said that they have some areas that they consider to be sensitive, like schools, we also have seen them do immigration enforcement operations near schools,” said Calle.
Accordingly, in light of growing anti-immigrant sentiment, Hackensack’s rapidly expanding immigration population, and fears among students’ parents and immigrant advocate groups, the Access to Education, Student Privacy and Immigration Enforcement policy was approved by school board officials to “strengthen student protections and stay on the right side of the law.”
Calle said that for her the policy is above all about protecting students and that it is critical to protect and inform undocumented immigrants who may not be aware of their legal rights. “It is not required of us to collaborate with ICE,” Calle said. “But it is required of us to protect the safety and information of our families and our students. And that’s what we’re going to be doing.”
Federal law specifically prohibits schools from “utiliz[ing] criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color, or national origin, or have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the program as respects individuals of a particular race, color, or national origin.” The Supreme Court case of Plyer v. Doe significantly held that “discrimination on the basis of immigration status in access to basic public education (i.e. elementary and secondary school) violates the Constitution.” This means that “requiring students or students’ parents to provide schools with information regarding their immigration status, or taking other actions that significantly interfere with the right to a basic public education, violates the constitutional principles set out in Plyler.”
Also, as set forth in Plyer, “schools cannot require students to provide a social security number and, consistent with Plyler, should identify a range of documents (e.g., birth certificate, family bible, parent affidavit) that may be used to establish a child’s age.” Additionally, consistent with the school district’s Plyler obligations, “school officials must not affirmatively aid in removing a student from school based upon her immigration status.”
If you or your child is subjected to immigration enforcement in violation of these laws, you should notify your local ACLU affiliate as soon as possible and you can also file a complaint with ICE or CBP through their websites. It is also advised that you seek legal representation with an experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorney.
The Law Office of Eric M. Mark specializes in criminal and immigration law in Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Morristown, Hackensack, Hoboken, Irvington, East Orange, Union City and throughout northern New Jersey.
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