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Eric Holder and Arne Duncan

Thursday morning, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued new guidelines that will aid public school students at the elementary and secondary levels in the enrollment process. These students will have additional assurances that no matter their documentation or immigration status, they will be given equal access to education.

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The media call was joined by Holder, Duncan, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Jocelyn Samuels, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon, and Acting General Counsel Philip Rosenfelt, U.S. Department of Education.

Holder opened the call, stressing the Departments of Justice and Education have worked in tandem before in strengthening the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court Plyler v. Doe decision, which struck down a Texas law denying free education to immigrant students. In 2011, the departments released guidance to help schools abide by the laws and treat students fairly.

Today’s announcement was an update to those guidelines, including new listings of information that schools cannot use in barring a student’s enrollment.

From the press release:

“Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “The Justice Department will do everything it can to make sure schools meet this obligation. We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.”

“We want to be sure every school leader understands the legal requirements under the Constitution and federal laws, and it is our hope that this update will address some of the misperceptions out there,” said Secretary Arne Duncan. “The message here is clear: let all children who live in your district enroll in your public schools.”

Included in the updated guidance documents are a letter to the state and school districts, a fact sheet, and a Q & A document that answers pressing questions schools may have regarding enrollment. The guidelines also highlight the types of documents other districts have allowed for immigrant students under the law and where certain documents, such as a state-issued driver’s license, are not necessary as once thought.

The government departments have been working together for the past three years with states and school districts to make certain they follow the federal civil rights laws that bar discrimination based on race, color, and national origin.

NewsOne was on the media call, and we asked Ms. Samuels if this measure was related to the Dream Act in any way. We also asked if their would be collaboration with pro-immigration non-profits on the state and local level. Samuels informed us that the guidelines are not related to the Dream Act but they do intend to hold training and other media initiatives to make sure schools are following the guidelines.

Below are the updated English and Spanish guidance documents for student enrollment.

The English guidance documents:




The Spanish-language guidance documents:




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