Alabama AG Defies Overbearing DOJ; Sessions to Support States on Immigration Enforcement

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

November 12, 2011

Last week, the Department of Justice sent a forceful letter to Alabama school districts reminding them that under Plyler v. Doe a state may not deny any child equal access to public education based on his or her immigration status. The letter, signed by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, included a ten-point list of demands for enrollment information that must be submitted by November 14 and updated monthly.

In his correspondence, Perez indicated concern that Alabama ‘s recently passed  law which includes a provision requiring school districts to collect information on enrolling students’ immigration status may “chill or discourage  participation” in school activities. Perez’s requested the school districts’ records: “…to assist us in determining what further action, if any, is warranted.” Read Perez’s letter here.

The Justice Department, claiming that states cannot have different immigration laws, is suing to block Alabama's legislation, part of which includes a provision requiring school districts to ascertain the legal status of new students. The DOJ has also sued Arizona and South Carolina which have similar laws.

In response to Perez, Attorney General Luther Strange told the Justice Department that unless it can show it has legal authority to ask Alabama school districts for their enrollment information following the state's new immigration law, he will assume it has none and "proceed accordingly." [AG to DOJ: Show Legal Authority for Enrollment Request, by Bryan Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser, November 3, 2011]

In a related development featured on the CAPS homepage, Senator Jeff Sessions announced he will co-sponsor legislation that would bar the Justice Department from taking part in lawsuits against states over their immigration laws. The Huntsville Times reports that Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) and Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) are also sponsors.

Said Sessions:

“The Justice Department needs to stop going after states that are taking steps in harmony with federal laws.”

The long term solution to the states’ costs to educate aliens is to challenge Plyler v. Doe, a subject I wrote about at length in my CAPS Issues piece titled California’s Education Crisis Reflects the State’s Overpopulation and Over-Immigration Crisis. Read it here.

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