NYS-TEACHS › Info by Topic: Immigrant Students

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PLEASE NOTE: In some cases, the resources on this page may not be current.

Important changes related to McKinney-Vento were included in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA). The changes went into effect October 1, 2016, and include: expanded transportation protections until the end of the school year for temporarily housed students who move into permanent housing, the inclusion of preschool in the definition of "school of origin" (children can stay in their school of origin and receive transportation to that school), and changes to the dispute resolution process which include the provision of all McKinney-Vento related services (for example, continued enrollment and transportation) until a final decision is issued. For more information about ESSA changes to the McKinney-Vento Act, see the State Education Department's Field Memo regarding Implementation of Changes to McKinney-Vento Homeless Act as a Result of Passage of Every Student Succeeds Act.

Please continue to check here for updated information about how new laws will impact policies and procedures in New York State, and as always, feel free to contact NYS-TEACHS at 800-388-2014 with any questions you may have.

Immigrant Students

Resources | Laws and Guidance

Immigrant students experiencing homelessness are protected under the McKinney-Vento Act, regardless of their immigration status. Under Federal law, school districts are required to provide all children, regardless of immigration or housing status, with equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary level. As the 1982 Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe, made clear, the undocumented or non-citizen status of a student (or his or her parent or guardian) is irrelevant to that student's entitlement to a public education. Click on the links below to learn more about immigrant students and homeless education.

Immigrant Students - Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Find answers to commonly asked questions about educational services for immigrant children and youth.


Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff

This guide was created for educators, school support staff and service providers who teach, mentor and help open the doors of opportunity for undocumented youth and unaccompanied and refugee children currently living in the United States. Educators, school support staff and service providers are often the first individuals a student and/or family comes out to as undocumented.

Fact Sheet: Educational Services for Immigrant Children and Those Recently Arrived to the United States [PDF]

This fact sheet from the DOE provides information to help LEAs understand their responsibilities and existing resources available to educate all immigrant students.

Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Education and Homelessness [PDF]

This NAEHCY brief is designed to assist McKinney-Vento liaisons and other education staff in providing appropriate services to unaccompanied immigrant children.

Unaccompanied Immigrant Children and McKinney-Vento Flowchart [PDF]

This flowchart explains the overall process (from apprehension through placement) that unaccompanied immigrant children may experience upon arrival in the U.S

Legal Issues for School Districts Related to the Education of Undocumented Children [PDF]

This document, issued jointly by the National School Board Association (NSBA) and the National Education Association (NEA), answers frequently asked questions from school administrators about their rights and responsibilities with respect to undocumented students.

Immigration and Schools: Supporting Success for Undocumented and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth [PDF]

Attending school and securing lawful status in the United States are two keys to safety and security for undocumented unaccompanied homeless youth. This brief co-authored by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), is designed for young people, immigration attorneys and advocates, McKinney-Vento liaisons, and other educators. It provides information about federal laws that provide the means for undocumented youth who are homeless to attend school and address their immigration status.

Immigrant and Homeless: Information for Local Liaisons and Information for School District Title II Program and Community Agencies [PDF]

These issue briefs from the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) explain the challenges many immigrant and refugee families encounter in adjusting to life in the United States, including integrating into the U.S. public school system. Methods for determining homelessness among immigrant and refugee families and strategies for supporting the integration of immigrant and refugee children into the U.S. schools are discussed.

For immigrant and undocumented students:

CUNY Citizenship Now! This project, based at the City University of New York (CUNY), provides free, high quality, and confidential citizenship and immigration law services to help individuals and families on their path to U.S. citizenship.

Immigrant Services Directory: Public Resources for Intake Referrals This guide from the American Civil Liberties Union outlines available resources, contact information, and referral processes for those seeking assistance for immigrant children and youth. The guide is organized state-by-state.

NCHE PowerPoint re Undocumented Homeless Youth Serving Undocumented Homeless Youth: Immigrant and Education Issues and Resources, PowerPoint from the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE).

For Immigrant Students and English Language Learners (ELLs):

Regional Bilingual Education - Resource Networks (RBE-RNs) The Goal of the RBE-RNs is to help each district/ school create for ELLs an educational environment which engages everyone in meaningful teaching and learning, respects diversity, provides opportunities for all children to achieve at the highest levels and enables them to become skilled in the English language while capitalizing on their strengths in terms of their native language and heritage.

Resources for ELLs in New York City The New York City Department of Education translates many surveys, notifications, and other documents for parents of English Language Learners that are available on this page in addition to other resources.

*To learn more about Immigrant and refugees, please visit the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE).

Laws and Guidance

A.G. Schneiderman And State Education Commissioner Elia Advise Schools On Protecting Immigrant Students

In light of recent federal immigration-related actions that have created fear and confusion in New York and across the country, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia reminded school districts on February 27, 2017 of their duty to comply with existing state and federal laws that ensure the rights of immigrant children to attend New York's public schools without fear of reprisal.

NYSED Field Memo: Guidance Relating to the Right of Individuals Over Compulsory School Age to Attend High School

This May 2016 memorandum serves to clarify the right of all individuals, regardless of citizenship, who reside in New York State (NYS) and are between the ages of 5 and 21, to a free public high school education in their school district of residence.

A Guide to Understanding the New Rules for School Registration

In July 2015, NYSED Commissioner's Regulations governing enrollment of students in public school were amended to ensure that all students, and in particular unaccompanied youth, have timely access to school. The Regulations require that school districts accept a broader range of documents to establish residency and establish timelines for making residency determinations. The NYSED has produced brochures in multiple languages that districts can provide to parents so that they better understand the enrollment process. The brochure is currently available in: English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian-Creole, Karen, Nepali, Russian, and Urdu.

NYSED Field Memo: Guidance Regarding Out-of-State/Country Children who become Homeless and Tuition Reimbursement

This March 2015 Field Memo from the NY State Education Department clarifies that schools districts cannot get additional state aid for instruction (also referred to as tuition reimbursement) through the STAC 202 process for students experiencing homelessness who were last permanently housed outside of New York State.

Educational Services for Recently Arrived Unaccompanied Children

The New York State Education Department issued this September 10, 2014 letter to all school districts regarding educational services for recently arrived unaccompanied immigrant children, many of whom may be eligible for services under the McKinney-Vento Act.

U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education Letter - May 2014

On May 8, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter to all school districts addressing certain enrollment practices that could discourage participation of immigrant students, and a warning that such practices are against federal law. The letter is accompanied by a Q&A document and a fact sheet that describe enrollment practices that should be avoided and those that are permissible. All school-aged children are entitled to enrollment in school, regardless of their immigration status, even if they are undocumented. The letter also notes that immigrant students who are homeless, including those who are undocumented, are entitled to immediate enrollment under the McKinney-Vento Act, even if they don't have the papers normally needed for enrollment. Schools are encouraged to review their enrollment requirements and practices to make sure that they are welcoming to all students, and to ensure their procedures do not have the effect, even if unintended, of discouraging the enrollment of undocumented children.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Undocumented students in temporary housing are protected by the McKinney-Vento Act. On June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum announcing that it would not deport certain undocumented persons who entered the United States as children. This memorandum is known as "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)." Deferred action means that, even though the individual is undocumented and subject to deportation, the government agrees to not take actions to remove the person from the United States. It is important to note that a grant of deferred action does not grant that person citizenship, nor alter an individual's existing immigration status, nor provide a path to citizenship. For more information about DACA, including FAQs and guidelines, visit the Immigrant Legal Resource Center's website (link above).


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