Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is locking horns again with the U.S. Justice Department. He sent a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez asking by what authority the department can collect data concerning Alabama’s Hispanic students.
Perez this week asked 39 Alabama school districts to give his agency information about Alabama Hispanic students, including those who had withdrawn or had unexplained absences. The request is part of the federal investigation claiming Hispanic students have been denied a right to public education.
Under the initial law passed by the Alabama legislature and signed by Governor Robert Bentley, schools were to report to the state authorities, the number of students whose immigration status is in question. That information did not include names of the students. The Justice Department wants the names of students who have withdrawn from school and the date they withdrew.
When the law was first enacted, it was reported thousands of Hispanic students were held out of school fearing the information being collected under the law. School officials tried to reassure families the information was for statistical purposes only, and not part of the effort to deport illegal immigrants.
Strange claims the Justice Department does not have the authority to collect the data it wants. He demands Perez reveal what “legal authority” he has to collect it.
October 14th, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Section 28 of the state law that required schools to track immigration information concerning newly enrolled students.
State Superintendent Larry Craven, who is also an assistant state attorney general, has told school districts to not respond to Perez’s request.
Strange told the Birmingham Kiwanis Club and Sunrise Rotary Club Monday, “Alabama is not going to do anything that violates anybody’s constitutional rights, that profiles anyone, that sets up some sort of mass roadblocks or anything like that. That is illegal and it will not be tolerated.”
He is predicting a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court over the law. He says it may take a year or two to get before the court.
In the meantime, he says, “We are working with law enforcement and public officials, judges and other people to try and sort through how do you implement this.”
The Justice Department claims the law is already violating civil rights. They’ve established a hotline to collect complaints of civil rights violations as the law is being implemented. The number 855-353-1010 is being used to collect complaints about the way the law is being enforced. People can also e-mail complaints to Hb56@usdoj.gov.