Undocumented Immigrants Have A Right To School Choice In Arizona
Families of undocumented immigrants in Arizona must know their rights when it comes to school choice. The law is clear: undocumented immigrants can send their children to private school using public money.
According to an azcentral.com article, the American Federation for Children (AFC) is spreading the word about school choice to Spanish-speaking families. The group’s Spanish website page states: “Arizona has a state-funded program that pays for private schools for thousands of children who live in this state. They don’t verify income or immigration status. Children don’t need to have or maintain certain grades.”
Regardless of immigration status, parents of children in Arizona can receive vouchers, or public money, from Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to send their kids to private school. The money pays for expenses such as private school tuition, uniforms and tutoring. According to the azcentral.com article, some Republicans who typically oppose illegal immigration and in-state college tuition for immigrants without documentation support the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.
An American Federation for Children representative said the group favors school choice for all children and does not take positions on “tangential immigration issues.” Just as undocumented children can attend public school in Arizona, they can attend private school through the program.
The issue is not without controversy. Azcentral.com quotes state Sen. John Kavanagh, a Republican lawmaker, who criticized the marketing efforts by AFC. He said lawmakers from his party supported Empowerment Scholarship Accounts as a way to improve education – not to encourage illegal immigration.
The Law Forbids Schools From Asking About A Child’s Immigration Status
Federal law bars Arizona from asking whether a student is undocumented. Immigration status has no effect on a child’s right to attend public school or private school using public funding.
Another Republican state senator quoted by azcentral.com, Sylvia Allen, said American Federation for Children should not be criticized for promoting the voucher program to undocumented immigrants.
“As long as the law states that (schools can’t ask about immigration status), I don’t believe the federation is doing anything wrong,” Allen told azcentral.com.
However, a lobbyist for the Arizona School Boards Association, Chris Kotterman, said it’s ironic that lawmakers who generally oppose illegal immigration are now supporting reaching out to undocumented immigrants to take advantage of the voucher program.
As attorneys who advocate for immigrants, we work hard to help families who have entered the country and dreamed of a better life. No one should prevent your child from attending a public school or a private school using the voucher program. The law clearly states all children have a right to an education in Arizona.
If you are an immigrant who needs legal help, talk to an experienced attorney. Contact us today at Brown, Naegle, Crider & Jensen LLC for a free and confidential consultation.