Opinion: Justice Dept. Wants Alabama's Schools to Cough Up Data

Marion Herbert's picture
Thursday, November 3, 2011

Back in May, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education fired off a joint letter to all school districts in the nation reminding them they risked losing federal funding if they violated the Supreme Court's 1982 ruling in Plyler vs. Doe by denying children access to a free education because of their immigration status.

That letter came as Alabama  lawmakers considered enacting a harsh new immigration bill. The measure was eventually passed and was signed into law; it included a controversial provision that would require all school officials to determine the immigration status of students for budget purposes.

The Obama administration, along with civil and immigrant rights groups, later sued the state, arguing that  Alabama was barred from adopting such laws because immigration rightly falls under federal control. A federal judge and a court of appeals agreed to temporarily block part of the law, including the school provision.

The matter seemed to be on hold until Monday, when the Justice Department fired off yet another missive, this one from Thomas Perez, who heads up the civil rights division.

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