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  • Writer's pictureMolly Watson

What are the rights of children of undocumented immigrants to a FAPE?

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

"Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me." Fred Rogers

Children of undocumented immigrants have a right to be educated

After the ICE raids in Mississippi last week, you may wonder whether the government has a duty to educate the immigrants' children.

The U.S. Supreme Court answered this question back in 1982 in Plyler v. Doe. This case concerned Mexican children who had entered the United States illegally with their parents. The Supreme Court held that preventing the children of illegal aliens from attending school violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

The Court explained that "education has a fundamental role in maintaining the fabric of our society" and "provides the basic tools by which individuals might lead economically productive lives to the benefit of us all." Further, while persuasive arguments support the view that a state may withhold benefits from people whose presence within the country is a result of unlawful conduct, the children of such illegal entrants "can affect neither their parents' conduct nor their own status," and "legislation directing the onus of a parent's misconduct against his children does not comport with fundamental conceptions of justice."

California's compulsory education law applies to children of undocumented aliens

Not only do undocumented children in California have a right to be educated, as is true of other students, undocumented children between the age of six and eighteen-years-old are subject to California's compulsory education law. They must attend school.

Parents who are illegal immigrants have rights regarding their child's education

All parents, even those who are undocumented immigrants, are entitled to participate in their child's education.

Are children of illegal immigrants entitled to a FAPE?

Children of illegal aliens who were born in the United States are citizens of this country and are entitled to all of the rights and protections Americans enjoy, including the right to a free appropriate public education, "FAPE".

As for whether children who are illegal aliens may be entitled to a FAPE, we assert that for the reasons stated by the Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe, it would be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause to deny such a child a FAPE.

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