A senior White House adviser insists President Barack Obama learned the Internal Revenue Service had been targeting tea party groups "when it came out in the news."More >>
A top White House adviser insisted President Barack Obama learned the Internal Revenue Service had targeted tea party groups only "when it came out in the news" while Republicans continued to press the administration for...More >>
In a letter to the State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice, the U.S. Department of Justice said that absences among Hispanics tripled immediately following the enactment of the immigration law.
The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ conducted the investigation to determine if student's federal rights were violated as a result of the law. Various laws and legal precedent ensure that public school students are protected from discrimination based on gender, race, religion and national origin.
This particular investigation concentrated on the Section 28 of the law, which requires school districts to collect information on immigration status from students at the time of enrollment. However, the law does not ban undocumented immigrants from attending school.
State Superintendent Bice explained in a statement today that every student enrolling in an Alabama K-12 school before the 2011-2012 school year was asked to provide an original or certified copy of their birth certificate in accordance to the law. If the student's birth certificate was issued outside of the U.S., school officials provided additional guidance for enrollment.
Schools then reported to the state whether a student enrolled with a birth certificate or not. Bice stressed in his response that no personal information was sent to the state at that time.
The DOJ states that their findings are especially concerning because 98.7 percent of Alabama K-12 Hispanic students are U.S. citizens. Section 28 was enacted in September of last year and enjoined by a federal court the following month.
According to the DOJ, attendance records show that while absentee rates for other student groups remained static before and after the enactment of Section 28, absentee rates and withdrawals from school increased sharply among Hispanic students.
DOJ employees also conducted interviews with students, teachers and administrators to further evaluate the impact of the law. They were told that many students felt "unwelcome" in schools they had attended for years and teachers and administrators said they often had to act as counselors to "console" children while they dealt the ramifications of the law and as legal experts while fielding calls from concerned parents.
Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, released the following statement regarding the DOJ's letter:
"We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the Alabama Department of Education's own data shows the civil rights of many children in our state are being violated, and we are thankful the federal Civil Rights Division is continuing its investigation, Even current legislation, the so-called reform bills, fails to make enough substantive changes to the law and these students' access to school will continue to be chilled."