Legal Policy and Ethics Regarding the Education of Migrants and Undocumented Lawyers in the US

05/30/2019 8:26 AM | Alison Oyler-Mitsch (Administrator)

María Pabón’s presentation will address the legal aspects of states educating undocumented students and the current trends in the admission to the practice law of undocumented attorneys in the U.S. The Supreme Court jurisprudence on these topics will also be identified and examined. Also an analysis of the legal policies and ethics of immigration, employment, and other areas affecting undocumented lawyers. Perhaps most notably this session will explore how these topics fit into the field of diversity. These discussions will assist all in the legal profession as well as, elected officials, professional licensing authorities, and policy analysts in these fields.

If you’re interested in some advance reading before this session please use these links:

Consider the 1982 Supreme Court of the United States opinion “Plyler v Doe” which granted undocumented students the ability to go to K-12 school .

In this case,  5-to-4 majority of the Supreme Court found that a Texas policy charging undocumented children tuition for a free public education was in violation of the 14th Amendment, as illegal immigrant children are people "in any ordinary sense of the term," and therefore had protection from discrimination unless a substantial state interest could be shown to justify it.

Texas had argued undocumented not persons under the 14th A, nor were they subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. The court majority rejected this claim, finding instead that "no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment 'jurisdiction' can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful." The Court majority found that the Texas law was "directed against children and impose[d] its discriminatory burden on the basis of a legal characteristic over which children can have little control" — namely, the fact of their having been brought illegally into the United States by their parents.

Plyler Dissent : Four Justices found that  in principle that it was unwise for illegal immigrant children to be denied a public education, but the four dissenting justices argued that the Texas law was not so objectionable as to be unconstitutional; that this issue ought to be dealt with through the legislative process; that"[t]he Constitution does not provide a cure for every social ill, nor does it vest judges with a mandate to try to remedy every social problem"; and that the majority was overstepping its bounds by seeking "to do Congress' job for it, compensating for congressional inaction".

María Pabón is an expert in immigrants’ rights (including the education of immigrant children), immigration law and diversity/multicultural matters in the legal profession. She has researched and written about criminal law. She has also done research in the areas of family law and inheritance law as it pertains to those who are not U.S. citizens.

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