President Obama’s June 15 announcement that the United States will immediately stop deporting certain young immigrants who were brought to the country as children was praised by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who pointed out the announcement came on the 30th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court decision on immigration status and the right to public education in the United States.
“Today's announcement will help ensure that thousands of talented and productive young people will more fully contribute to our nation,” Duncan said. “It is fitting that this announcement comes on the 30th anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, where the Supreme Court held that a child may not be denied equal access to public education based on his or her immigration status. This administration is committed to upholding the promise of Plyler, and will continue working vigorously to assure that the American educational system remains open to all young people who reside in this country.”
The Plyler ruling was handed down by the court on June 15, 1982, after a 1975 revision to Texas education laws allowed the state to withhold from local school districts state funds for educating children of illegal aliens. This case was decided together with a similar case, Texas v. Certain Named and Unnamed Alien Child.
The Supreme Court reasoned that illegal aliens and their children, though not citizens of the United States or Texas, are people “in any ordinary sense of the term” and, therefore, are afforded constitutional protection under the 14th Amendment. Since the state law severely disadvantaged the children of illegal aliens by denying them the right to an education, and because Texas could not prove that the regulation was needed to serve a “compelling state interest,” the court struck down the law.