Existing law guarantees immigrant and students who don’t speak English a free public education from kindergarten through Grade 12 up until the age of 21 regardless of immigrant status. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that undocumented children have the same right as U.S. citizens and permanent residents to receive a free public education.
Schools are required to provide undocumented immigrant students the same benefits and services made available to other students. Therefore, when determining eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch and/or breakfast programs under the School Lunch Act, do not reject applications that do not have the parent's Social Security number. Parents without Social Security numbers need only indicate on the application that they do not have a number. Districts must make it clear that any and all information provided is used solely to obtain federal funds.
School personnel, especially building principals and those involved in student intake activities, have no legal obligation to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Conversely, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has no legal authority to determine or infringe on district residency policies.
Districts heavily affected by the enrollment of immigrant students (documented and undocumented) may qualify for Federal Emergency Immigrant Education Program funds through the State Board and should take full advantage of them. Districts may also be eligible for funding through the State Transitional Bilingual Education Program for limited English speakers or the federal Title VII program.
Social Security Numbers
The law prohibits any action that might have a "chilling" effect on the right of access to schools; therefore, districts must not require parents or adult caretakers to provide information concerning their or their children's immigrant status. Policies or procedures that condition services or benefits by requiring a child's or a parent's Social Security number must be amended because these practices have the effect of exposing the immigration status of undocumented students or their parents. Districts should assign a school-generated identification number if a number is needed for identification or administrative purposes to avoid infringing upon undocumented students' rights. Similarly, when implementing residency policies, care must be taken to ensure that parents do not indirectly reveal their immigration status. Thus, districts may accept – but cannot mandate -- as proof of residency that parents or adult caretakers provide either an Illinois driver's license or a state identification card, both of which require Social Security numbers.
Districts may accept -- but cannot mandate -- as proof of residency that parents or adult caretakers provide either an Illinois driver's license or a state identification card, both of which require Social Security numbers. It is not uncommon to find children who do not live in the same household as their parents among immigrants and families that don’t speak English. To safeguard immigrant students' right to a free public education, Local Education Agencies must not conclude that children who live within the district -- but apart from their parents -- must be charged tuition as if they were a non-resident.
Districts must proceed with flexibility when determining a child’s residency, even if it is questionable whether the child lives apart from the parent simply to access educational programs. Districts cannot mandate adult caretakers or relatives with whom a child lives to establish legal guardianship as a condition for gaining access to the district's schools. Districts may require reasonable assurance from the responsible adult caretaker that they accept responsibility for the child. This may be done through a notarized affidavit.
International Student/F-1 Visa
The F-1 Visa Program allows non-immigrant foreign students from outside the United States to apply for student visas to attend our public schools. Recent changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act require districts to charge out-of-district tuition and limit attendance to 12 months. These changes do not affect J-1 (foreign exchange) students; F-2 (dependents of F-1) students; or students whose parents are here as diplomats, researchers, or foreign workers. Students attending private schools are not affected by the amendment. This amendment does not affect immigrant students residing in the United States nor does it alter a district's obligations to undocumented children since the changes made to the F-1 Visa Program only affect students specifically seeking F-1 status from outside the United States.
Rights of All Children