New York State Attorney General Letitia James and the Education Department Commissioner Betty A. Rosa have instructed public schools to enroll all school-aged migrant children regardless of their immigration status, nationality, proof of residency, immunization status, school records, or language proficiency.
The state officials reaffirm the right of every New Yorker to receive a free public education.
This directive emphasizes the review of school policies to ensure they align with the state’s Education Law, especially when it pertains to migrant children in temporary housing.
The officials also cautioned school districts against any measures that could obstruct or complicate the enrollment of migrant children, which may lead to potential legal repercussions.
A shared statement highlighted: “The [Office of the Attorney General] and [state Education Department] have recently learned that some districts employ enrollment policies that make it difficult or impossible for noncitizens, undocumented students, and people who rent their homes without a formal lease to register for school.”
According to the official statement, practices such as mandating that a student’s residency exceed 30 days or necessitating regular proof of their current housing status could “violate constitutional and statutory protections, exposing school districts to lawsuits and liability.”
Recent disputes have arisen between state officials and upstate community leaders over the relocation of families from city areas to converted hotel shelters. Schools that refuse students based on housing or immigration-related reasons are being directed to address their complaints to the attorney general’s office.
New York’s Capital District has witnessed debates in community forums over the surge in school enrollments due to new arrivals. Still, some school officials maintain their ability to accommodate the inflow.
In particular, North Colonie and Mohonasen school districts have registered 110 migrant students relocated from New York City shelters. These districts also seek additional resources for ESL (English as a Second Language) services.
Despite the requirement for students to reside within a school’s district to attend for free, the guidance recommends accepting a range of residency documentation. This can range from letters from landlords, social workers, attorneys, and religious leaders to membership cards, voter registrations, and documents from governmental entities.
According to the instructions, while confirming residency, schools should not hinder migrant students from attending classes.
State leadership expressed concerns over the continuous rise of southern border crossings and the subsequent delay in addressing the migrant influx in New York City. Governor Kathy Hochul and several congressional representatives have called on the Department of Homeland Security to fast-track work authorization permits for migrants pursuing asylum and permanent residency in the United States.