By Nancy Lorena Acevedo, Esq.
Our nation is deeply divided over immigration policy. As the economy continues to falter, the gap widens between those who believe that immigration is one of the sources of salvation for this country’s financial future, and those who believe that immigration is one of the principal causes of its current downward spiral. In spite of this rift, many states such as California, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin have enacted laws in an effort to ensure that undocumented students who are seeking not only to finish high school, but also to pursue higher education have the ability to do so. Various other states are considering enacting similar laws.
Contrast these reasonable and compassionate initiatives with the strong anti-immigrant sentiment reflected in the laws of states such as Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah, which have, among other things, sought to place strong limitations on undocumented children’s access to public schooling. However, on Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision, which, in part, enjoined a provision in Alabama’s law that would have required state officials to check public school students’ immigration status. Given that the right to access to education is at stake, it is encouraging that the Court recognized how devastating the consequences of immigration laws targeting undocumented immigrants, no matter how young and blameless, can be. Whether the 11th Circuit will ultimately conclude that Alabama has no authority to enact such legislation, however, remains to be seen.