Thank you. I am honored to be here. And there is no more fitting way to honor Michael than around the 40th anniversary of Plyler v. Doe.
This case centered on Texas statute § 21.031, which on its face, permitted the local school districts to exclude noncitizen children who entered the United States without immigration status or to charge admission for the same. The questions before the Court were: (1) whether a noncitizen under the statute who is present in the state without legal status is a “person” and therefore in the jurisdiction of the state within the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (2) if yes, whether the statute violates the Equal Protection Clause. The plaintiffs in this case were school-age children of Mexican origin residing in Smith County, Texas, who could not establish that they were legally admitted into the United States.
In a 5-4 opinion, the Court held: “[a] Texas statute which withholds from local school districts any state funds for the education of children who were not ‘legally admitted’ into the United States, and which authorizes local school districts to deny enrollment to such children, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."
While the court did not go as far as to call education a “right” it did underscore that “education has a fundamental role in maintaining the fabric of our society.”