National Immigration Law Center Announces Campaign to Protect K-12 Public Education Access for All Children

May 22, 2024

Email: [email protected]
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458

National Immigration Law Center Announces Campaign to Protect K-12 Public Education Access for All Children

WASHINGTON — A coalition of 35 organizations, led by the National Immigration Law Center, launched Education for All – a new campaign to protect access to K-12 public education for all kids, regardless of their immigration status. 

The campaign, which includes leading education, immigrant rights, and civil rights organizations, aims to ensure all children have continued access to a free K-12 public education, as mandated by law. The campaign will monitor and defend the right to an education, a bedrock of our country’s democracy, against extreme politicians and organizations that seek to weaken our public schools by scapegoating immigrant communities.

“In launching this campaign, we are sending a clear message that we will meet any attack on the right of all children, no matter their immigration status, to access K-12 public schools with fierce resistance,” said Kica Matos, president of the National Immigration Law Center. “Efforts to prevent kids from being able to attend school are part of a broader assault on public education and ultimately our democracy. School helps instill the norms, values, and skills that children need to thrive and fully participate in our communities. It is in our collective best interest to protect access to schools for all, and to categorically reject extremists’ attempts to weaken public education.”

Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 landmark Supreme Court decision, held that states cannot deny access to public K-12 schools based on immigration status. Now, the Education for All campaign is building a broad, deep, and powerful movement in support of every child’s right to receive a free, public education.

“The law is clear. Denying children who reside in the United States a K‐12 public education based on their immigration status, or the perceived status of their parent and or legal guardian, is illegal,” said Evelyn DeJesus, executive vice president, AFT. “School districts who violate the applicable legal guidelines are placed on notice, we will fight back! We’re proud to join the Education for All Campaign. AFT members who work in schools—from teachers, school support staff and nurses, to bus drivers—play a critical role in helping to protect the Plyler rights of all students. Schools must be safe havens and welcoming places of learning, free from discrimination, racism, bullying and the threat of deportation. Our members are often the first responders to potential threats in schools and are the frontline protectors of our students.”

“CABE educators believe that our nation of immigrants find strength in unity when we embrace the tapestry of our diversity, cultivate our immigrant heritage, and celebrate our multilingualism as one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all,” said Dr. Edgar Lampkin, chief executive officer of California Association for Bilingual Education.

“Public education is the cornerstone of opportunity in America – the key that unlocks possibilities for every child in our country,” said Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez, deputy director of Californians Together and co-chair of the National Newcomer Network. “Yet we are again witnessing a growing anti-immigrant movement against free, public education for all. Through legislative action and budgetary investments, California continues to shine as a beacon of inclusivity and access where all learners, regardless of background or circumstance are afforded meaningful learning opportunities. We must come together to safeguard the fundamental right to a free public education for all children across this country, ensuring that the future of our country is safeguarded through a well-educated population, regardless of immigration status.”

“Providing a public K-12 education to every child regardless of their immigration status is based on our core American value to protect all children and support their ability to achieve their full potential,” said Wendy Cervantes, director of immigration and immigrant families at the Center for Law and Social Policy. “The tremendous contributions of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are just one example of the social and economic benefits of educating immigrant children. We are committed to ensuring that this constitutional right is protected for the well-being of immigrant children and for society as a whole.”

“Providing free public education to all children living in America ensures that no state is allowed to inadvertently create an underclass of children by depriving them of an education,” said Linda Corchado, senior director of immigration at CHILDREN AT RISK. “Free public education ensures that not one child is placed at a permanent and insurmountable competitive disadvantage, because if there could ever be a silver bullet to eradicate poverty, it is the unencumbered right to an education.”

“There’s no doubt that public education is under attack in this country,” said Bruce Lesley, First Focus on Children. “We believe that every child has the right to a public K-12 education, regardless of their economic background, immigrant status, disability, or other situation. First Focus on Children is pleased to join the Education for All campaign.”

“Every child, regardless of their immigration status, deserves the key to knowledge through education,” said Tessa Petit, executive director of Florida Immigrant Coalition. “In Florida, countless children who were born in other countries and had to navigate our complex immigration system throughout their lives have transcended barriers to become pillars of our society, enriching our communities and driving progress. Their journeys remind us that potential knows no borders, and investing in their education is an investment in the future greatness of our nation. The short-sightedness of denying immigrant children access to public education not only stifles their potential but also undermines the very foundation of progress and inclusivity. In denying them education, we deny ourselves the opportunity to benefit from their talents, innovation, and contributions to our shared future. All kids dream of bright exciting futures. The cynicism and political ambitions of a few should not get in the way of all children fulfilling their God-given potential.”

“We must stand firmly behind the fundamental principle of Education for All, recognizing that equal access to K-12 public education not only empowers children to reach their fullest potential but also fortifies the fabric of our society, enriching our communities and strengthening our economy and nation,” said Todd Schulte, president of “At a moment when the future of our multiracial democracy is at stake, is proud to help launch this crucial effort to safeguard every child’s right to a quality public education, irrespective of immigration status.”

“Children are not just individuals; they represent the promise of tomorrow,” said Guerline Jozef, executive director, Haitian Bridge Alliance. “Plyler v. Doe recognizes that regardless of origin, every child deserves a chance to learn, thrive, and contribute to society. Protecting their access to education is not just a legal mandate but a moral imperative, shaping a more inclusive and equitable future for all.”

“In 1982 the US Supreme Court wisely ruled that school-age children have the right to free public education regardless of their immigration status,” said Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “We now need to ensure that this right remains protected for all children. We are happy to join the Education for All campaign and eager to work at all levels of government so that all children will have access to public education.”

“When I arrived in the U.S at age 7, I had the opportunity to receive a public education, regardless of my immigration status,” said Astou Thiane, director of policy & advocacy at ImmSchools. “It was that opportunity that allowed me to graduate High School, go to college, and to become an educator who served the community where I grew up. My story is proof of what can happen when we invest in all of our children’s education. It shows that all of America benefits when all of its children have access to an education.”

“As educators, we believe that all students, irrespective of their ZIP code, language they speak or color of their skin, have the right to a great public education that helps them achieve their dreams and grow into their brilliance,” said Noel Candelaria, secretary-treasurer of NEA. “We have a professional and moral responsibility to stand up against those politicians who are bent on denying educational opportunities to students because of their place of birth and criminalize their families for seeking a better life. By joining together, we can demand an immigration system that is humane, functional, and just, and that honors the work and sacrifice of those who move here for the promise of freedoms that all of us cherish.”

“Quality public education is the foundation of a healthy democracy,” said Alejandra Vázquez Baur, fellow and co-founder/director of the National Newcomer Network, The Century Foundation; and Dr. Conor Williams, senior fellow, The Century Foundation. “Welcoming school environments give children the opportunity to realize their full potential, contribute to our economy, and improve American society and our communities. This election year, we must protect all students’ right to education, regardless of citizenship status. Threats to children’s access to school fly in the face of established legal precedent under Plyler v. Doe, not to mention our sense of moral decency. Kids belong in school. At the Century Foundation, we are committed to educational equity and protecting the rights of immigrant youth in schools, and we are proud to join the Education for All campaign to do just that.”

“All students, regardless of immigration status, deserve access to equal educational opportunities,” said Maribel Ramos, director of federal government relations at the National Women’s Law Center. “In 1982 the Supreme Court ruling Plyer v. Doe established the constitutional right to a free, public K-12 education for undocumented immigrant children in the United States, but anti-immigrant sentiment continues to threaten that right. At the National Women’s Law Center, we fight for the rights of women and girls to have equal access to educational opportunities. As a member of the Education for All Campaign we stand in solidarity in fighting back against these harmful attacks targeting immigrant communities and children, many of them women and girls.”

“Education is the cornerstone of upholding the humanity of future generations as part of societal progress,” said Evelyn Aissa, deputy director, Partnership for the Future of Learning. “Every child, regardless of immigration status, deserves the right to a quality public education. It’s not just a policy; it’s a moral imperative.”

“Every child, no matter the color of their skin, their family’s income, or their immigration status, deserves the freedom to learn in public schools that celebrate them for who they are,” said Judith Clerjeune, advocacy director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “In recent years, the Tennessee legislature has unsuccessfully introduced legislation targeting Plyler v. Doe, in an attempt to undermine the promise of accessible education for all children in our country. While some try to divide our communities and parents in order to hold onto power, we know our collective future depends on our children’s education. Together we can deliver that future by protecting the freedom for every child to get a quality public education that gives them the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive.”

“Every child in Texas deserves access to a high-quality public education, regardless of where they were born or how their families arrived here,” said Carisa Lopez, deputy director for Texas Freedom Network. “Denying kids that fundamental right based on their immigration status is not only immoral, it perpetuates long-standing injustices against communities of color and low-income families. The Education for All campaign reaffirms our belief that investing in all children’s futures through public schools lifts up our entire state. We cannot allow racism or xenophobia to rob any young Texan of their constitutional right to learn. Texas must join the growing number of states protecting every student’s opportunity to thrive in the classroom.”

“The Texas State Teachers Association is proud to be part of the Education for All campaign,” said Ovidia Molina, president of the Texas State Teachers Association. “As educators, we are committed to protecting the right to a public Pre-K through 12 education for every child, regardless of immigration status. Education changes lives and strengthens our future. We work hard every day to give every child the opportunity to succeed.”

“Without question, every child has the right to go to school and to learn amongst their peers, regardless of their immigration status. It is cruel to even think that as a country, we would deny any child this opportunity,” said Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, deputy director of federal advocacy of United We Dream. Yet, ongoing attacks against immigrant communities include threats to strip away this fundamental human right for education for all children; something that we will not sit by and simply watch take place. Immigrant youth at United We Dream are proud to join the Education for All campaign to protect the right to public K-12 education for all kids and will fight alongside our partners for pro-immigrant, inclusive education access for our communities.”

“At the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, we firmly believe that every child, regardless of their immigration status, deserves access to public education,” said Jane Liu, director of policy and litigation, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “The Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe affirmed this fundamental right, recognizing that our society thrives when every child has the opportunity to learn and grow. We are proud to join this campaign to protect public education for all, including immigrant children.”

Visit the campaign website at to learn more.

Partner organizations at launch include:

Advocates for Youth
Americans for Immigrant Justice
Arizona Dream Act Coalition
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC
Buen Vecino
California Association for Bilingual Education
Californians Together
Center for Law and Social Policy
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
First Focus Campaign for Children
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Haitian Bridge Alliance
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
National Education Association
National Newcomer Network
National Women’s Law Center
New York Immigration Coalition
Partnership for the Future of Learning
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition
Texas Freedom Network Education Fund
Texas Freedom Network
Texas State Teachers Association
The Century Foundation, K-12 Education
United We Dream
Women’s Refugee Commission
Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights