Latino Students Returning To School After Federal Court Orders Block Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law

When Judge Sharon Blackburn ruled last year that a controversial provision in Alabama’s immigration law requiring schools to check the immigration status of newly enrolled students could go into effect, schools immediately saw some Latino students staying home from school or withdrawing out of fear that their families could be deported if they were questioned about their immigration status at school.

About two weeks later, the 11th Circuit temporarily overruled Blackburn’s original decision and stopped schools from asking about the immigration status of new students. And when the appeals court gave its final ruling on Alabama’s HB 56, it struck down most of the harmful immigration law, including the schools provision. Even though the state’s attack on school children was only in effect for two weeks, Justice Department officials reported that over 13 percent of Hispanic children left school in the school year during which the law was briefly in effect.

But a year later and into a new school year, some Alabama school districts are seeing more Latino students. Although the Alabama Department of Education’s full numbers on Latino enrollment across the state will not be available until late October, early signs suggest the court orders blocking the law succeeded in reversing some of its impact on Latino students:

“When the law was first passed, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Jeff Goodwin, superintendent of the Oxford school system. “We lost 10 or 12 after the first week, but then they came back.”

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the Oxford school district has more Hispanic students than any other local school system, and has seen the largest increase in Hispanic residents in the last 10 years. Oxford’s numbers show the school system currently has 336 Hispanic students, an increase from the 324 enrolled in 2011. . . . . The Anniston school system had a slight increase to 40 Hispanic students this year from 32 in the previous year. According to the Census, Anniston’s Hispanic population dropped to 216 from 409 in the last 10 years.

The Calhoun County school system has also seen an increase in Hispanic student enrollment – with 230 Hispanic students this year compared to 215 the previous year.

The fact that schools in Calhoun County are seeing an increasing number of Latino students suggests that the court orders worked. The courts appear to have stopped a discriminatory law from further damaging the state of Alabama, and as a result, immigrant children do not have to be scared of going to school.