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Former Tyler school Superintendent James Plyler The families had prepared for the possibility that they would be deported. lenged in state district court; they were going in at their own peril. The families knew that, and had prepared for the possibility that they would be deported that day. They did not know that the U.S. Justice Department had already decided it was more interested in having the case heard then sending the INS to round up a few families in Tyler. In fact, as long as former President Jimmy Carter was in office, attorneys from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division filed briefs and appeared in court on the side of the immigrant families. After the hearing, Justice issued a preliminary injunction directing Tyler schools to admit all children living in the district, regardless of their immigration status. He also ordered the Texas Education Agency to release state funds to the Tyler school district for each undocumented child. A two-day trial was held in December, and on September 14, 1978, Justice issued his final ruling. “Already disadvantaged as a result of poverty, lack of English-speaking ability, and undeniable social prejudices,” he wrote, “these children, without an education will become permanently locked in the lowest socioeconomic class?’ photo by Jessica Rinaldi Justice chided the state for using the children to deal, in a backhanded way, with longstanding problems caused by a school finance system based on property taxes. No one disputed that school districts were overburdened and that there were many poor, Spanish-speaking, immigrant students, particularly along the border, he wrote. But testimony indicated that most of them were legal immigrant children. “Bent on cutting educational costs and unable constitutionally to exclude all such ‘problem’ children, the state has attempted to shave off a little around the edges, barring the undocumented alien children,” he wrote. “The expedience of this state’s policy may have been influenced by two actualities: children of illegal aliens had never been explicitly afforded any judicial protection, and little political uproar was likely to be raised in their behalf.” Justice had entered new territory in applying the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Part of the Reconstructionera legislation passed by Congress after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was designed to officially do away with slavery and caste-based laws. It confers citizenship on those born in the United States and provides that, “No State shall make or enforce any laws which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” There was no INS, no Border Patrol, no restrictions on immigration when the amendment passed. The Supreme 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 13, 2007