During the November 7 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy interviewed Larry Craven, Alabama Interim State Superintendent of Schools, about the Department of Justice's (DOJ) request for student data as part of its investigation of complaints regarding the controversial Alabama immigration law. Watch:
During the interview, Doocy suggested that the DOJ overstepped its bounds by requesting this information and that this request was retribution for Alabama's new immigration law, claiming that "it looks to some people like this is a gigantic overreach by the federal government, and they're just trying to smack you down because you've got a tough immigration law."
Doocy later stated the DOJ request is "just another burden on the schools, as it sounds like the federal government is trying to crack down on your state for being tough on ... illegal immigration."
But while the DOJ did make this request because of Alabama's immigration law (H.B. 56), the request was not retribution, as Doocy suggested. As Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez explained, the request for student data is in response to concerns that the law is discouraging students from attending school:
It has come to our attention that the requirements of Alabama's H.B. 56 may chill or discourage student participation in, or lead to the exclusion of school-age children from, public education programs based on their or their parents' race, national origin, or actual or perceived immigration status, or based on their homeless or foster care status and consequent lack of documentation.
Indeed, a November 5 Birmingham News article highlighted those concerns, reporting that immigration advocates say that Section 28 of H.B. 56 -- which does not keep children of undocumented immigrants out of school but allows for schools to investigate the immigration status of the children -- "has frightened families enough to avoid school activities and caused Hispanic children to be bullied." The article further reported that "[s]tatewide data show that absenteeism among Hispanic students is persistently higher than before Alabama's law went into effect at the end of September."
And as The New York Times reported on October 27, critics of Section 28 say the measure "is a simple end in itself, an attempt to circumvent settled law and to scare immigrants away from school now, not at some point in the future. Weeks of erratic school attendance figures and a spike in withdrawals show that this has worked, they argue."
It was those concerns that led the Department of Justice to request:
[R]ecords of enrollment by race and lists of students who have withdrawn since the beginning of the school year, broken down by race, national origin and whether they are classified as English Language Learners. The department also seeks a list of unexplained absences since the law took effect on Sept. 27, and detailed breakdowns of enrollment categories on several different dates.
And despite Doocy's suggestion that the federal government was guilty of a "gigantic overreach" in requesting this data, Perez, in a letter to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, explained the authority under which he requested the information:
[T]he Civil Rights Division has recently received complaints in Alabama that may implicate some of the non-discrimination statues related to education that the U.S. Attorney General has express authority to investigate and enforce, including Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C § 2000c-6, and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, 20 U.S.C § 1703. We requested information from Alabama school districts to review compliance with those statutes.
During the interview, Doocy did not ask Craven about any of these concerns regarding Section 28 and suggested that the federal government had no authority to ask for this information. This is yet another example of Fox's overwhelmingly unbalanced approach to reporting on immigration issues.