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NEA President praises federal court’s decision to block key provision of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law

School officials cannot ask about students’ immigration status


WASHINGTON - August 22, 2012 -

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel praised a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that found Alabama’s anti-immigrant law requiring the immigration verification of newly-enrolled students is in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and could interfere with a child’s constitutional right to an education.

“The decision by the federal court sends an unequivocal message to politicians playing politics with the lives of students in Alabama: schools are and should remain places of learning, not of fear,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “As a result of the court’s action, we hope students will return to safer and more welcoming learning environments.”

After the Alabama law (H.B. 56) went into effect last September, thousands of immigrant families withdrew their children from classes or kept them home. Parents were afraid that sending their children to school would draw attention from authorities.

The National Education Association, the Alabama Education Association, and the National School Boards Association filed a joint amicus brief challenging a law passed by Alabama lawmakers in 2011. H.B. 56 would have required school personnel to verify that newly enrolling students are in the country legally. If parents had been unable to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, then the student would have been designated as undocumented in annual reports school districts must provide to the state.

The federal court decision on Alabama’s H.B. 56 follows in the footsteps of a major U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidated most of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. Unfortunately, the federal court left standing a racial profiling provision in H.B. 56 commonly known as “show me your papers.” Both provisions encourage racial profiling of non-white people by the police.

“As educators, we remain concerned that the practical implication of the ‘show me your papers’ provisions in the Alabama and Arizona laws will chill and deter immigrants from fully participating in all aspects of our society, including enrolling their children in school,” said Van Roekel. “We will continue to work with our state affiliates and partner organizations to overturn these provisions.”

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823, mgonzalez@nea.org