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Photo Credit: MALDEF in History, Plyler v. Doe

Nation's Oldest and Largest Latino Civil Rights Organization Marks the 41st Anniversary of Plyler v. Doe

June 15, 2023
For more information, contact David Cruz at (818) 689-9991

Washington, DC - LULAC commemorates the 41st Anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, a landmark court case that solidified the right of undocumented immigrant children to receive an education in the United States. The significance of this ruling cannot be overstated, as it marked a pivotal moment in the fight for equal access to education for all children, regardless of their immigration status.

"As we celebrate the 41st Anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, LULAC stands firmly committed to upholding the principles of equal access to education for all children," As a law student at Thurgood Marshall law school, I helped do some research for the attorneys handling the case and today this law has changed the lives of millions of children, "says Domingo Garcia, LULAC national president. "We recognize the value of diversity and inclusivity in our schools, and we reaffirm our dedication to creating an educational system that fosters the growth and development of every child, regardless of their background," he adds.

In 1975, the Texas Legislature passed an amendment that excluded a specific group of children from schools. However, thanks to the unwavering determination of courageous parents and advocates across multiple school districts, a strong stance was taken to secure the educational future of these children, even at significant personal risk.

Photo Credit: Arthur Rothstein, photographer. Nursery school playground. Robstown camp, Texas. 1942. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) played a crucial role in providing extensive information for one of the initial court cases addressing the education of undocumented children in Texas, Doe v. Plyler (1978). Dr. José A. Cárdenas, the founder of IDRA, served as an expert witness for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) during the trial in Tyler. At the same time, Dr. Albert Cortez, IDRA's retired policy director, testified in court cases in Houston and Dallas.

“The actions of the Texas legislature led to some districts demanding proof of citizenship,” says Dr. Angela Valenzuela, LULAC national higher education committee co-chair. “Also, the state withheld state funding of schools to districts with undocumented students in them. The full history of what happened still has to be written. The Supreme Court decision formed the constitutional backbone that protected the rights of the immigrant youth population to a public education. We must preserve both the 14th Amendment and all students' rights to a public-school education,” adds Valenzuela.

IDRA's findings showed that the districts' poverty status stemmed from an unjust and inequitable school finance system. The presence or absence of undocumented children did not determine the poverty levels of these districts, further exposing the fallacy behind blaming these children for the financial challenges the schools faced.

Finally, on June 15, 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a historic ruling mandating that public schools must serve all children, including undocumented children. The Court recognized that denying enrollment to students based on their immigration status violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Garcia concludes, "As we move forward, LULAC will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform to tackle the needs of immigrant communities, including ensuring equitable access to education for all children. We call on policymakers at all levels to prioritize the well-being and future of our nation's children by supporting inclusive educational policies that foster diversity, promote cultural understanding, and empower every student to reach their full potential."




The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation's largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC's programs, services, and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting the critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/