Hispanic students have started vanishing from Alabama public schools in the wake of a court ruling that upheld the state’s tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration.
Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home this week, afraid that sending the kids to school would draw attention from authorities.
There are no precise statewide numbers. But several districts with large immigrant enrollments–from small towns to large urban districts–reported a sudden exodus of children of Hispanic parents, some of whom told officials they planned to leave the state to avoid trouble with the law, which requires schools to check students’ immigration status.
In Montgomery County, more than 200 Hispanic students were absent the morning after the judge’s Wednesday ruling. A handful withdrew.
In tiny Albertville, 35 students withdrew in one day. And about 20 students in Shelby County, in suburban Birmingham, either withdrew or told teachers they were leaving.
Local and state officials are pleading with immigrant families to keep their children enrolled. The law does not ban anyone from school, they say, and neither students nor parents will be arrested for trying to get an education.
The law does not require proof of citizenship to enroll, and it does not apply to any students who were enrolled before Sept. 1. While most students are not affected, school systems are supposed to begin checking the status of first-time enrollees now.
The Obama administration filed court documents Friday announcing its plans to appeal the ruling that upheld the law.