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Education Groups File Brief Against Ala. Immigration Law

The National Education Association and two other education groups have filed a friend-of-the-court brief criticizing Alabama's immigration law as being "about the power of fear."

"The purpose and effect of HB 56 is to use fear and intimidation to drive undocumented immigrants and their children out of the state of Alabama," says the brief, which was filed Monday in a lawsuit that challenges the state law that, among other things, requires schools to determine the citizenship status of students.

The brief was also signed by the Alabama Education Association, the NEA's state affiliate, and the National School Boards Association, based in Alexandria, Va. It was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, which is considering whether to overturn a federal district judge's decision against blocking several of the law's provisions.

The brief says the law's Section 28, which deals with schools' requirement to figure out whether children are in the country legally, clashes with the U.S. Supreme Court's 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe. In that case, the high court held that a state may not deny access to a basic public education to any child, whether that child is present in the country legally or not.

"The Act's enrollment disclosure requirements and its reporting requirements already have and will continue to deter undocumented immigrants from enrolling their children—documented or not—in Alabama's public schools," the school groups' brief states. "As the record evidence demonstrates, parents will decline to enroll their children due to fear that the enrollment process will result in the child's or the parents' deportation."

While the 11th Circuit court weighs requests from the federal government and private groups to block those provisions of the Alabama law that the federal district judge allowed to proceed, the state has clashed with the U.S. Department of Justice over the department's request for information from schools about students who have left since the law went into effect.

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