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Complaint: Immigrant Children Turned Away from N.C. Schools

Immigrant children, who came to the U.S. illegally and alone, are being turned away from North Carolina schools when they try to enroll, civil rights and immigrant groups told the Department of Justice.

The groups name two school systems, Buncombe County Schools in Asheville and Union County Public Schools in Monroe, in a complaint filed Thursday. But they also urged DOJ to look beyond those school districts "because we know this is happening all over North Carolina and even South Carolina a bit and probably all over the country," said Caren Short, staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"There's a significant enough problem that it deserves to be investigated by the Department of Justice," said Mark Bowers, staff attrorney for Legal Services of Southern Piedmont.

The groups also have notified the state's education board.

In the two cases cited in the DOJ complaint, the children are identified as C.V. from Honduras and F.C. from Guatemala. Both were kept from enrolling in high school and endured bureaucratic obstacles when they attempted to enroll, the complaint states.

Being too old is a reason often given to children, the groups said. School officials also give the children's adult guardians or sponsors complex paperwork in English without language assistance, delay responses and ask for Social Security numbers, they said.

The children often have fled harsh conditions in their home countries, either economic or violence and exploitation. Some were brought here by trafficking rings. Others want to join parents.

The children and their sponsors often do not complain out of fear of immigration consequences, the groups said.

The schools named did not immediately respond to requests for comment.