Georgia’s new immigration law may have some students and parents wondering what the coming school year will bring.
On July 1, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 went into effect bringing tough new laws to crack down on the number of illegal immigrants in the state. Georgia currently has the sixth highest rate of illegal immigrant residents in the country. Those determined to have illegal status face deportation.
Though the new law may clarify the immigration issue for some, it could muddy the waters when it comes to school enrollment. According to state law, children between the ages of six and 16 must be enrolled in a public, private or home school setting.
“We have an obligation to the kids, regardless (of their parent’s immigration status), we have an obligation to educate that child,” said Susan Hale, spokesperson for Fulton County Schools.
And that’s where things can get dicey.
The procedure for school enrollment has not changed. To enroll in Fulton County Schools, parents still must prove residency by providing two of the following: bank statements, mortgage or rent statements, current utility bills or connection receipts, homeowner’s insurance registration or a current pay stub. Families in transition can apply to the Fulton County School Board for temporary homeless status consideration.
In addition, a notarized Affidavit of Residence must be submitted upon initial enrollment in the district and again prior to sixth and ninth grades. Parents also have to provide a child’s birth certificate and immunization records.
However, immigration status is not directly addressed. According to federal law, it is illegal for school systems to request information that could reveal the immigration status of a child.
“You can suspect, but there’s no way to prove,” said Hale. She also said that immigration data is not collected by the school system.
School budgets are determined largely by the number of students who attend a particular school. Hale also said that though official enrollment numbers will not be available until after the first month of school, preliminary information supports the projected student enrollment for the coming school year.
Lynn Johnson is the principal at Mimosa Elementary School in Roswell. Of the more than 1,100 students at Mimosa Elementary, 68 percent are hispanic, 89 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch and 53 percent are classified as English Language Learners.
Johnson said she hasn’t seen a decline in Mimosa’s enrollment for the 2011-12 school year either. She added that school personnel will address any related issues on an as-needed basis.
“It’s a really touchy situation and is very private to families,” Johnson said.