Rescind Discriminatory AL Immigration Law & Comply with Civil Rights

Target: Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, Alabama interim superintendent of Education Larry Craven, Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools executive director Earl Franks, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, Alabama State Legislature

Goal: Rescind Alabama’s discriminatory immigration law and comply with the US Department of Justice’s civil rights probe into Alabama’s unconstitutional barriers to public education for Hispanic children

Effective September 29th, Alabama became the first state in the nation to require public schools to check the immigration status of children upon enrollment. While Judge Sharon Blackburn upheld the state’s intrusive immigration law HB56 as constitutional and disingenuous supporters claim the Alabaman immigration coding system (0 v. 1) merely tracks the number of illegal immigrants rather than blocking enrollment in schools, the actual school attendance and harassment of Hispanic students undermines their fallacious assertions. In addition, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange strangely refused to comply with the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) request for enrollment data regarding the race, national origin, and linguistic status of students. More importantly, DOJ attorneys want the names of students who have withdrawn from school and the dates they left, in an unprecedented step to probe whether Alabama’s GOP-instituted immigration laws have or will discourage students from attending school. Current state-released figures hide the number of students who left school between September 29 and October 4, and sidestep all the Hispanic families which fled the state before September 29th.

Hispanics make up only about 3% of the total population in Alabama and 4.6% of the total public school enrollment, with approximately 120,000 undocumented workers living in the state. Why are Alabaman legislators imposing disproportionately punitive measures on a population which contributes to their state economy? The controversial provisions are even pushing legal Hispanic workers out of the state. Alabama’s harsh immigration laws create a chilling climate of fear and intolerance. Record numbers of Hispanic parents have pulled their children out of school, citing anguished concerns: “We don’t want them to take away our children.” Justice Department officials are also monitoring bullying incidents linked to Alabama’s illegal immigration law, as remaining Hispanic children report sharp upticks in bullying, taunts, and threats at school since the crackdown took effect. US Attorney Joyce Vance notes that many Hispanics fear raising the issue with school or state officials “for fear of coming in contact with government officials. Under the law, authorities are supposed to detain suspected illegal immigrants found living in the state and hold them for federal immigration authorities.” Section 28 frays the fragile trust among Alabama schools and communities, where Hispanic children and families are branded “our nation’s own caste of untouchables.” Alabama must reverse the hostile and discriminatory environment which HB56 created.

This Alabaman immigration law flies in the face of legal precedent, notably the 1982 Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe, which states that immigration status is not determinative of a child’s access to public education. Quality education is a civil right. Alabaman officials cannot deny innocent children their constitutional right to public education. Law professor Rosemary Salamone and the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights reminded Alabaman school officials that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Plyler decision make it illegal to both directly block the enrollment of illegal immigrants and act in ways that could reasonably result in children not receiving a free public education. Section 28 clearly “creat[es] this situation where [the children are] not likely to go to school.” In fact, fearful Hispanic families were rebuffed in some unwelcoming Alabaman school districts: “Don’t bother enrolling, you won’t be here long.” Alabaman officials must revoke the discriminatory and deleterious law HB56, and comply with the Department of Justice’s federal investigation of unconstitutional civil rights violations.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Alabama Attorney General Strange, Superintendent Craven, Executive Director Franks, Governor Bentley, and Alabama State Legislature:

I strongly urge you revoke the discriminatory and deleterious immigration law HB56, which violates several civil rights principles. Federal law prohibits any action which directly blocks the enrollment of illegal immigrants or reasonably results in barriers to children’s public education. Given the mass exodus of Hispanic families – undocumented and legal residents – out of Alabama’s hostile schools and state, it’s pretty clear that HB56 substantially interferes with Hispanic children’s valid access to their constitutionally guaranteed free public education.

I also categorically condemn Attorney General Strange and Superintendent Craven’s strange and craven attempts to block the US Department of Justice’s inquiry into HB56’s civil rights violations. Your advice to school districts and administrators to withhold DOJ-requested data on the chilling effects of Section 28 are blatant attempts to obfuscate the true terrors of your intrusive immigration regulations. I charge you with the immediate compilation and submission of the information for this important federal investigation.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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