Following the September 28 court ruling that the majority of Alabama’s strict new immigration law can take effect, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama and other advocacy groups jointly filed a legal brief arguing one of the law’s provisions will discourage enrollment and attendance at the state’s public schools.
The provision in question, Section 28, states that public schools can determine the citizenship status of students prior to enrollment. In ruling that Section 28 can take effect, Judge Sharon Blackburn wrote it would not prevent undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in school and would not target their parents for deportation or other enforcement actions, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
However, in appealing Blackburn’s decision, civil rights groups said that in practice, the provision will foster a climate of fear that will prevent illegal immigrants from sending their children to school. In an affidavit, the plaintiffs cited the case of “Jane Doe No. 7,” an illegal immigrant mother who says her daughter faced questions from a teacher who wanted to know the citizenship status of the girl’s parents.
In the days after Blackburn’s ruling, schools around the state reported a large number of Hispanic students were absent, prompting the Huntsville school superintendent to appear on a Spanish-language TV show to reassure parents that the new law only seeks to collect data about students’ immigration status.