DOJ To Alabama AG: You Can’t Tell Schools Not To Give Us Enrollment Data

Yes, Alabama school districts, you do have to turn over your enrollment data to the Justice Department.

Earlier this week, DOJ wrote a number of school districts requesting enrollment data as part of their investigation into whether Alabama’s harsh immigration law is forcing students out of school, in violation of federal law.

But Republican Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange questioned DOJ’s authority to request the data and interim school superintendent Larry Craven told schools to hold off on turning over any data until the disagreement was settled.In a letter sent Friday by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, DOJ said Strange can’t speak for the school districts and that the Justice Department has the “express authority” to investigate under the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act.

“Dear Luther,” Perez writes, “Thank you for your November 2 letter. We look forward to working with you to protect school-aged children and ensure that all children’s rights to an education are properly enforced.”

Perez continued: “We know that the longstanding legal tradition in this country of ensuring the right to attend school without being subject to discrimination on any impermissible ground is as critically important to you, as the Attorney General of the State of Alabama, as it is to the Civil Rights Division.”

Perez noted that Alabama gave the press statewide student enrollment data covering the past several school years and said that DOJ’s request was a “similar effort to get a fuller picture of what is occuring” in schools across the state.

“Separately, it is our understanding that you do not represent the school districts that we have contacted. Please let us know if that understanding is correct, so that we may proceed accordingly,” Perez writes.

Perez also indicated that DOJ and other agencies would be under investigation whether Alabama’s immigration statute violates a wide array of federal laws.

“As we receive additional information, the Civil Rights Division and other Federal agencies will be evaluating the potential for violation of Federal laws in Alabama, including civil rights laws — the Fair Housing Act, the Safe Streets Act, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, among others,” Perez wrote. “Any subsequent inquires regarding these matters would be in furtherance of our obligation to monitor compliance with these laws.”

The letter is embedded below.

Letter to AG Luther Strange 11-4-11