New York Revises Regulations to Ensure Undocumented Immigrants Can Enroll In Public School

Empty Classroom (1)
AP Photo

New York State’s government is on a mission to ensure all the unaccompanied minors apprehended illegally entering the U.S. and transported to the Empire State receive a free education without any barriers.

“Schoolhouse doors must be open to every student in our increasingly diverse state, regardless of their immigration status—and there is simply no excuse for denying children that basic, constitutionally protected right,” New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman says.

Schneiderman was touting his support for the New York State Board of Regents’ revisions to the New York State Education Commissioner’s Regulation that ensures immigration status does not inhibit enrollment.

“The Board of Regents’ emergency regulation will help eliminate significant barriers faced by unaccompanied minors across the state,” he added.

The emergency amendment to the regulation came amid concerns that some school districts were not enrolling students that did not have documentation, in violation of federal policy, which requires all students receive an education regardless of immigration status.

“Many school districts across the State have experienced an influx of unaccompanied minors and other undocumented youths,” the amendment reads. “It has been reported that some school districts are refusing to enroll unaccompanied minors and undocumented youths if they, or their families or guardians, are unable to produce documents sufficiently demonstrating guardianship and/or residency in a district. These enrollment policies, as well as highly restrictive requirements for proof of residency, may impede or prevent many unaccompanied minors and undocumented youths from enrolling or attempting to enroll in school districts throughout the State.”

The new rule expressly prohibits school districts from seeking documentation related to immigration status but provides guidance on documentation it may use to determine a student’s age and residency in the state.

The announcement comes as states and school districts around the county are trying to cope with the influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors, many from Central America, who were apprehended illegally crossing the southern border in droves this year. Many of these unaccompanied minors have been relocated throughout the U.S.

News reports indicate the influx is making it more difficult to teach, as many students arrive not speaking English, having experienced some kind of trauma and with varying levels of prior education.

More than 5,950 unaccompanied minors were been released to sponsors in New York State in the last fiscal year. More than 160 have been released in the state to date this fiscal year.

Regent James Tallon tells the Capitol Confidential that most of the students are in about 10 school districts down state.