Plyler v. Doe

Facts

The state of TX passed a law that withheld educational funds for pupils who were illegal aliens.  Furthermore, the law permitted local schools to deny such students access to the school.  The relevant school district in this case attempted to admit illegal immigrant students, but instead charge them a tuition fee of $1000 per year.  The school sued the state on the basis of the fourteenth amendment, arguing that the law violated equal protection.

Issue

Whether a law that denies illegal immigrants access to education violates the 14th amendment.

Holding/Analysis

Yes, the law violates the fourteenth amendment and is therefore invalid.  The court held that illegal immigrant children are people deserving of equal protection rights.  Because they fall under the amendment’s purview, the state must show a “substantial” state interest in discriminating against them.

The court further held that the law discriminated against an innocent class of children.  The children have little control over their illegal status, which further relegates the state law to the status of unjustifiability.  The court wrote that procuring this law would further create a “sub-class” of citizens, who would ultimately become the burden of the state even further because of their non-educational status.  The law had no compelling state interest because it essentially worsened the state’s illegal immigrant burden by denying educational rights to those within its borders.

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