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Thirteen children, aged between one and 13, and seven mothers walk upon arrival in Guatemala deported from the United States. (AFP PHOTO / Johan ORDONEZ)

By Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. April 15, 2016: U.S. laws across all 50 states of our union clearly state that “all children — including those living in the U.S. illegally— must attend school through at least the 8th grade or until they turn 16,” according to the Education Commission of the States.

Yet, a new study by Georgetown University Law Center researchers have found that immigrant children living in the United States who are undocumented or without legal status, have been blocked from registering for school and accessing the educational services they need, according to Associated Press reports.

The report analyzed barriers to education faced by the 775,000 children under the age of 18 estimated to be living in the United States without legal status. As of December 2015, there were 61 million immigrants and their children under age 18 reported living in the US, according to census data analyzed by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a think tank opposed to immigration, both legal and illegal, in the US. Just over 45 million of those immigrants and their children entered the US legally, the analysis found.

The Georgetown University Law Center study, issued by the university’s Human Rights Institute and the non-profit Women’s Refugee Commission, found that undocumented students face long enrollment delays and have been turned away from classrooms as the result of some districts’ arbitrary interpretations of residency rules and state laws.

Others encounter a lack of translation and interpretation services, which leave their families uninformed about the process, the report found. This even affects legal resident children who are green card holders.

Further, keeping the kids away from school is fear by their parents that they could be rounded up and deported. Since the fall of 2013, more than 100,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have sought refuge in the U.S. and have been placed in communities across the country after being apprehended at the border.

Fear that these kids could be picked up and deported is driving the parents to keep them away from registering in public schools. The case of a North Carolina teen, who was attending high school in Durham and picked up by agents at his home and put into detention because of his undocumented  status plays to that fear nationally.

The report, which studied school districts in Texas, Florida, New York and North Carolina, calls for a strengthening of federal outreach to districts unaccustomed to serving newcomer populations and better assurances that educational access continues amid immigration enforcement. The recommendations have been presented to the Department of Education.

“Under federal law, schools are not allowed to discriminate against children due to their racial or ethnic background,” the report said. “And yet, some communities have barred immigrant children from enrolling or meaningfully participating in school by creating intentional and unintentional barriers.”

What a sad state of our union when we are withholding a public service such as education from innocent children. It is why the U.S. Supreme Court vote for the President’s DAPA and DACA programs is so critical. We in these United State must take a stand for what is constitutionally correct all of the times not just some of the times. The rules on public education are clear. Let’s make sure we speak up to ensure they are followed.


The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.


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