The New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, announced on February 19, 2015, that 20 school districts across the State had violated new regulations impacting unaccompanied minors and undocumented youth (children of illegal aliens). The school districts affected cover 14 counties in New York, including Homer and Vestal as well as the Oneida School District – all of which are in the New York 22nd Congressional District. The initial investigation that led to the discovery of the violations was started in October 2014 and was centered on counties surrounding New York City.
The entire issue of the children of illegal aliens and unaccompanied minors was brought to the foreground in education when more than 66,000 minors entered the US without authorization, in part as a result of the 2012 Executive Order – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This lead to an influx, as of September 2014, of at least 4,200 unaccompanied minors in New York State alone. As a result, Hempstead school district was investigated for restricting enrollment of 34 potentially undocumented (illegal alien) children, and subsequently those children were enrolled once the violation of Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe was confirmed. During the investigation of the Hempstead school district, advocates for illegal aliens identified other school districts that may have had similar violations in other parts of the State, leading to the announcement by AG Schneiderman.
The 1982 Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe, determined that the 14th Amendment provided for the coverage of children of illegal aliens – especially as according to the Court majority opinion,
“no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment ‘jurisdiction’ can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful.”
Effectively this means that, as a comparison, if a known bank robber were to be identified by accident and/or incidental information (which otherwise would be admissible in court), that bank robber must be excluded from legal prosecution. While there is little argument against providing children with an education, just as they are universally provided health care, the majority decision does allow for judge advocacy instead of decisive legislation form Congress. As the Court dissenting view stated,
“[t]he Constitution does not provide a cure for every social ill, nor does it vest judges with a mandate to try to remedy every social problem.”
The entire issue was further complicated by the issuance of the November 2014 Executive Order Executive Actions on Immigration – which has as of February 16, 2015 been stopped due to a court injunction. The injunction lead to AG Schneiderman’s emphasizing the Plyler v. Doe case as justification of the changes to be enacted in the 20 school districts, though the regulations in place were without question for decades until the promise of unilateral action by President Obama. This appears to have been hinted at by Vestal Superintendent Mark LaRoach who was quoted as stating in regard to this matter,
“Honestly, we hadn’t even had the time. I think it was less than a 30-day period to go out there and review that application. We would have, but holy cow! We hadn’t even received guidance from the state as to what it would take to come into compliance.”
Ultimately, the result will be that the 20 school districts will no longer be able to ask (among other items) about the following items:
- Disclosure of visa status
- Visa expiration date
- Status as a U.S. citizen/non-citizen
The costs for new training, enrollment forms, and compliance with the Attorney General apparently will fall on the school districts involved, and the local budgets they operate under. No additional funding from the State is known to have been applied or available to offset the additional costs. The total impact to taxpayers is unknown at this time, as it has been confirmed that at the federal level the Obama Administration never sought the tax implications of the November 2015 Executive Order, and no known tax implication was noted by New York State.
The final outcome of the changes to the education system in New York and across the country is highly dependent on the outcome of the immigration Executive Orders of President Obama, decisions by the court system, and any legislation to be offered by Congress.