Plyler v. Doe 1982

Author:Daniel Brannen, Richard Hanes, Elizabeth Shaw

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Appellants: J. and R. Doe, certain named and unnamed undocumented alien children

Appellees: James L. Plyler and others

Appellants' Claim: That a Texas law withholding public funds from local school districts for educating children not legally present in the United States and encouraging school districts to deny these children enrollment is constitutionally valid.

Chief Lawyers for Appellants: Peter D. Roos, Peter A. Schey

Chief Lawyers for Appellees: John C. Hardy, Richard L. Arnett

Justices for the Court: Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., John Paul Stevens

Justices Dissenting: Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Sandra Day O'Connor, William Rehnquist, Byron R. White

Date of Decision: June 15, 1982

Decision: Ruled in favor of Doe (the illegal alien children) by finding that the Texas law violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause and struck it down.

Significance: With this decision, states could no longer deny public education to children only because they were illegal aliens. The Court's opinion provided an important statement on the importance of education to American society.

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The school on the Texas-Mexico border is known as a "gate school." Behind the playground is a chain-link fence dividing the United States from Mexico. From the playground children and teachers can see a Border Patrol jeep, its officer continuously peering through binoculars down along the border and school grounds. The officer is waiting and watching for yet another individual or family, desperate for a better way of life, to attempt to illegally (without permission) cross the border into Texas. Of the predominately Hispanic children at the gate school, the principal says it is difficult to tell who is documented (legal) or undocumented (illegal). To the principal it does not matter. She believes that a school should educate all children living within the United States boundaries and she intends to do just that. She is supported by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Plyler v. Doe (1982) which ended years of controversy by ruling that states have the responsibility to educate children of undocumented aliens.

Equally Protected

Although the United States has restricted entry of foreigners into its borders since the late nineteenth century, countless individuals and families have illegally made their way into America. Border states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California have seen the largest arrival of "illegal aliens." Illegal aliens are citizens of a foreign country living in America without permission. Illegal entry into the United States is a crime and persons who unlawfully enter are subject to deportation (sending an alien back to the country from which he came). However, once in the United States illegal aliens share some of the same rights as any legal alien or U.S. citizen. One of these...

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