Protecting Plyler: New Challenges to the Right of Immigrant Children to Access a Public School Education

Ofer, Udi

Close to thirty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe that undocumented children have the same right to access a public school education as children who are United States citizens or immigrant children lawfully admitted to the United States. Yet today, undocumented children still face significant hurdles when attempting to access a public school education. Moreover, new questions have arisen about the right of children on nonimmigrant visas to enroll in school. This Article reviews the Plyler decision and subsequent attempts to reverse the ruling. The Article examines the rise of the modern-day movement to restrict immigration and the impact of this movement on the right of immigrant children to access a public school education. The Article considers several examples of school districts preventing immigrant children from enrolling in schools, and argues that children on nonimmigrant B visas should not be denied enrollment. Finally, the Article concludes by recommending numerous steps for the federal government to take to ensure that school districts provide equal access to an education to all immigrant children.


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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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October 20, 2012