The 12 school districts require parents to provide a New Jersey driver’s license or other state-issued forms of identification that undocumented immigrants likely would not possess, in violation of both the state and federal constitutions, the ACLU says in its suit filed Thursday. Under current laws and policies, schools may only request proof of a child’s age, residence, and immunization record when registering them for classes, the ACLU says.
“New Jersey’s state Constitution calls for free public education, and that applies to every single child – no exceptions,” ACLU-NJ staff attorney Elyla Huertas said in a statement. “In a state where one in five residents is foreign-born, at a time when our president has made the exclusion of immigrants a key part of his policy agenda, it’s more important than ever for every school district in New Jersey to meet its obligations, both to New Jersey’s families and to the Constitution.”
In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that had denied undocumented immigrant children an education in the public school system. After a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Mexican school-age children who lived in Texas, the high court ruled that the law had violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In a landmark ruling, the high court held that “education has a fundamental role in maintaining the fabric of our society” and that it “provides the basic tools by which individuals might lead economically productive lives to the benefit of us all.”
The lawsuits were filed in state Superior Court in the individual counties where the districts are located, one month after thousands demonstrated in Washington to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies and separation of undocumented children from their parents at the Mexican border. The protest was organized by the American Civil Liberties Union and several other civil rights organizations.
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