It seems especially difficult to find good news for undocumented immigrants right now, but here is something nice. Thanks to intense community involvement and legal push-back, Louisiana’s undocumented students will now be able to play high school sports in the state, after a deeply unpopular rule—which required that students provide Social Security numbers to play—was overturned on Friday.
According to Louisiana-based reporter Casey Parks, Louisiana principals voted this week to allow kids to use a student ID instead of just a Social Security number to register for athletics:
Previously, student-athletes in Louisiana had to provide either a birth certificate or official immigration papers, as well as a social security number, in order to register. As Parks outlined in her story for the Heichinger Report in November, the state has seen an influx of Hispanic students in recent years, with the number climbing from roughly 17,000 in 2018 to 50,000 last year. A portion of those students are undocumented immigrants, but even those with temporary visas or residency do not have the documents demanded of them by the state.
The LHSAA first came under fire for the rule—which dates back to at least 2016—after the organization released a memo in early November of last year, warning coaches in the state that undocumented immigrants were using student IDs instead of Social Security numbers to verify that they could play. Though undocumented students are protected from expulsion based on their immigration status, rules like the LHSAA’s prevent them from receiving the full basic education that they are entitled to under the Constitution. The LHSAA’s memo struck a nerve not only because of what the rule entailed, but because it was sent out right before soccer season, a sport that traditionally features a disproportionate amount of Hispanic students.
Louisiana attorneys immediately mobilized to challenge the rule, on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. Per The Advocate, the office of Kenner-based attorney Miguel Elias sent a letter to the LHSAA, stating that the rule violated the constitutional right to a “basic public education,” regardless of immigration status:
Children cannot be denied a public education based on their legal status in the United States. In its opinion, the court opined that to deny children a basic education would foreclose to them the ability to live in and meaningfully contribute to American society.
Meanwhile, the ACLU of Louisiana demanded that the LHSAA end the rule, stating that the rule was “unconstitutional and cruel” for the students:
Requiring student athletes to provide their Social Security numbers is a discriminatory practice that may prevent undocumented children from participating. This show-me-your-papers policy is a cruel and unconstitutional approach to what should be a fun, inclusive and enriching activity – and a betrayal of what high school sports should be all about.
While the overturning of the Louisiana rule is a win for undocumented students, the state is not the only one that required some form of immigration documentation for student-athletes; as Parks pointed out both in her story and on Twitter Friday, Mississippi and Florida both still have rules preventing immigrant students from fully participating in high school sports: