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Can a migrant child without documents study at a school in the United States?

Undocumented immigrants face several challenges in the US. Can an undocumented migrant child study in the United States?

Los inmigrantes indocumentados enfrentan varios desafíos en USA. ¿Puede un niño migrante sin documentos estudiar en Estados Unidos? Te explicamos.
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Every year, thousands of people come to the United States in search of better opportunities. Many flee their countries due to social, political, and economic conditions and enter the American Union illegally and under difficult conditions.

Although many leave their countries to seek a better quality of life, those who enter the US illegally face various challenges and uncertainties, such as obtaining legal immigration status, finding a job, or studying.

Can a migrant child without documents study at a school in the United States?

In 1982, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe that undocumented children and young adults have the same right to attend public elementary and secondary schools as US citizens and permanent residents.

According to the Supreme Court ruling, school personnel, especially principals and those involved in student admissions activities, are not legally bound to enforce United States immigration laws. Meaning that they are not required to report undocumented students to immigration authorities.

The ruling states that the legal status of undocumented children does not establish a sufficient rationale to deny them the benefits that the State grants to other residents.

As a result of the US High Court ruling, public schools cannot:

  • Deny admission to a student during initial enrollment or at any other time based on their undocumented status;
  • Treat a student differently because of their immigration status;
  • Require students or parents to disclose or document their immigration status;
  • Conduct inquiries from students or parents who may expose their undocumented status; or
  • Require Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of all students, as this can expose undocumented immigrant status.

A school district may not request a student’s or parent’s SSN unless it informs the person that the disclosure is voluntary. Officials must also provide the legal basis for why the district is requesting the number and explain how the district will use the number.