at Advocates for Children
151 West 30th Street
New York, NY 10001
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.
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.
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):
Bilingual Education Technical Assistance Centers (BETAC) The BETACs provides technical assistance at no charge to school districts with Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learners.
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
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.
On May 6, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter to all school districts addressing student enrollment practices that may discourage participation of immigrant students, which is illegal. The letter and accompanying fact sheet describe enrollment practices that should be avoided and those that are permissible. The letter also mentions 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.
This Memo from the State Education Department discusses the school district's responsibilities and obligations with respect to the enrollment and residency determinations, particularly with respect to students who are undocumented. The memo states that school districts may not deny resident students a free public education on the basis of their immigration status.
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).