For migrant families, one of the greatest challenges in the U.S. can be enrolling children in school. Families may have trouble gathering the requested documentation, may be discouraged from enrolling due to language barriers or their child’s age, or may be denied enrollment if the primary caregiver is not the child’s parent or legal guardian.

It is important for all parties in the enrollment process to remember that:

  • School districts cannot ask about an individual’s immigration status, as it is unnecessary for establishing residency in a school district; rather, the school can require families to submit other documentation such as utility bills, lease agreements, or an affidavit;
  • School districts may not bar a student from enrolling simply because the individual lacks a birth certificate;
  • Providing a social security number is voluntary; and
  • In some cases, migrant children may be living with caregivers other than their parents or legal guardians. Seventeen states have consent laws which allow relative caregivers to enroll children in school. Other states do not have these laws but allow enrollment by caregivers. However, some school districts may ask for proof of guardianship or legal custody, which can have the effect of blocking a child from enrolling in school. In these situations, caregivers may work with schools to determine whether the school would accept an affidavit or other assurance of the relationship between the child and caregiver. Furthermore, some parents or legal guardians may have also executed a Power of Attorney giving these alternate caregivers specific and limited parental rights, which may facilitate the enrollment process.

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