August 12, 2009


The Numbers--

There are approximately 8.3 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. workforce (2008).

47% of those 8.3 million illegal immigrants have children (73% of the children are U.S citizens).

The children of those 8.3 million illegal immigrants make up 6.8% of all elementary and secondary school-going children.

Immigration-Legal and Illegal

The majority of immigrants who come to the United States are looking for a better future for their family and themselves. They come so that at the very least their children can have a chance to live the “American Dream”. People struggle to find jobs and often when they have jobs, they find it impossible to provide for their families in countries around the world. In America however, one can start over, and become economically stable. The dreams and aspirations of immigrants are shared, whether they are legal immigrants or illegal immigrants.

In 1986, the U.S. government begin to take action against illegal immigration by creating the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). IRCA has two main purposes: its first purpose was to penalize US employers who “knowingly” hire undocumented immigrants and its second purpose was to create an “amnesty” program that would legalize illegal immigrants living the U.S. under certain criteria. IRCA had hoped to decrease illegal immigration, which they did, but that did not stop illegal immigrants from coming to the U.S. It has been estimated that about 2.3 million illegal immigrants were legalized by the IRCA, and with their new status, they were able to bring over relatives from their countries the U.S.

Health care, education, and incarceration are the three main social services that are used by illegal immigrants in the United States.

In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) was created and it banned most public services to illegal immigrants, but it allowed illegal immigrants to access “emergency” medical services and provide pregnant woman and infants with care (especially since most these infants are U.S. citizens).

In the Supreme Court decision, Lau v. Nichols in 1974 stated that when pubic schools do not provide non-English speaking children the language of instruction, they are violenting the students right. In the Plyler vs. Doe (1982) case public schools are required to provide education to all students regardless of immigration status and are prohibited from requiring proof of status (Ramanujan, 2009)


Illegal immigrants who commit crimes in the Unites States, are also filling up spots in prisons. Incarceration is the last social service that illegal immigrants, specifically those who commit crimes, are taking advantage of.


Historical Emergence

For citizens and immigrants (legal and illegal), education is the key to a successful life. After all, one of the many advantages of living in the United States is the access to a free public education. In most countries, there is no public education infrastructure in place, or education, public and private, is too costly for most people to afford. For that reason, so many immigrants come to the United States, believing the education they receive in the United States will better their lives or the lives of education_2.jpgtheir children. This is true for illegal immigrants just as it is true for legal immigrants.

In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court supported the right of undocumented students to have access to public school education when it ruled on Plyler v. Doe. This ruling essentially forced states to guarantee undocumented students free access to a K-12 grade public school education. Furthermore, it established the rights of undocumented students to be the same as the rights of citizens and legal residents.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe was crucial in securing undocumented students’ right to a free public primary and secondary education, it did not help undocumented students hoping to attend public and private universities and colleges across the country. As Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 currently stipulates, the government cannot give any public financial aid to undocumented students for the purposes of higher education.

FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform)

    • FAIR argues that immigration is overcrowding schools, which is causing the need to build new schools.
    • FAIR also states that the increase of immigrants in schools has resulted in a federal Bilingual/Immigrant State Grant program to help schools with this issue. The National Association of Bilingual Education estimates that about $700 million a year is given to school districts that experience a large necessity for this program due to the levels of immigrants in their schools.
    • Overall these two problems that claims makers make conclude that instead of taxpayers revenue going towards improving the education for U.S. and current students, these funds are being used to make more space available due to population growth and to contribute to new programs
    • FAIR indicates that other serious problems with immigrants in the education system is that there is a high immigrant drop out rates that has caused the high school graduation rates in the United States to drop to 70 percent, compared to the 80 percent that the US achieved 40 years ago.
    • This also causes challenges to teachers in training because they are struggling with meeting with educational chanllenges, for example teachers have goals in improving students achievements levels.
    • Another issue that FAIR states is that illegal immigrants are possessing bachelor degrees and post doctoral degrees where they will be competing with others in job market.

In recent years, many groups and organizations have put a huge amount of attention on national security, costs of social services, and the overall preservation of American life and society. One of the scapegoats has been illegal immigrants. These are people without voices and unknown identities; this makes them easy targets. The people that blame illegal immigrants point to the drain they are on the system. They point out that illegal immigrants use publicly funded primary and secondary education and have access to other social services. In times of great economic hardships, illegal immigrants cost the United States too much. Furthermore, they argue that the society is hurt by an influx of illegal immigrants because they are poor and because they are criminals. This has become the rallying cry of the anti-illegal immigrant movement. Illegal immigrants tear at the fabric of America, financially and socially. They focus all their anger on the undocumented adults, and treat undocumented children and the children of undocumented workers as if they are merely numbers.

So where do we find ourselves as a nation today? In the heated debate over illegal immigration, the children of illegal immigrants (including those born in America) are the forgotten ones. Politicians, the media, and education policy is aimed to hurt undocumented workers and make illegal immigration less appealing. Unfortunately, children are taking the brunt of the punishment by being hurt in the present, and by having their prospects on a successful life diminished.

Institutions: State and Public Policy, Media, Education


State and Public Policy--

Of all illegal immigrants, it is the youngest among them that bare the most burdens from society and they are the ones hurt most by the education system and public policy. Some states refuse to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition fees at universities. In-state tuition is about two to three times less than out-of-state tuition. Remarkably, there are more barriers to a good education for undocumented students. In South Carolina, undocumented students cannot enroll in any public universities and colleges. In North Carolina, undocumented students cannot enroll in community colleges. This ban is especially harsh because community colleges often allow education_3.jpgundocumented students to gain and refine knowledge that can propel them to a four-year university. Overall, only 10 states (including California) award in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. This however still does not begin to tackle the problem of access to education. Even with in-state tuition fees, most illegal immigrants cannot afford to go to universities—mainly because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe, which banned the federal government from providing financial aid to undocumented students.This restriction on federal aid causes enormous problems for undocumented students. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that about two-thirds of students receive some sort of financial aid, with about half of those receiving federal aid—with an average federal aid package of $10,800 in 2007-2008.

The author of the controversial DREAM Act, Senator Richard Durbin (D, Illinois) put the predicament best, saying “current immigration laws prevent thousands of young people from pursuing their dreams and fully contributing to our nation's future,” said in a statement. “These young people have lived in this country for most of their lives. It is the only home they know. They are American in every sense except their technical legal status.” The way the policies are right now, that technical status perpetuates the problems illegal immigrants have when trying to access good public education.

The debate over undocumented students extends beyond tuition. In California, where illegal immigrants are allowed to pay in-state rates, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed legislation that would allow undocumented students to compete for financial aid at public colleges and universities in the state. One final complication in the life of an undocumented student is that they often cannot find work at a university or in general because of their undocumented status.
About 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools every year (25,000 from California alone), most with no meaningful help in paying for a good postsecondary education.
As a result of these and other public and state policies, undocumented students are unable to access quality public postsecondary education.

A Poignant Case (taken from Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0403/p02s01-usgn.html)

Myrna Ortiz – UCLA Student
Moved to the United States from Mexico as a child
She is forced to take quarters off because she runs out of money. Like most undocumented students, her parents cannot afford to pay for her education. She cannot receive financial aid, again, like her fellow undocumented workers. To complicate things, her undocumented status means she cannot find work easily
In her own words: “We've been here our whole lives, and all we want to do is contribute back”.

The institution of State and Public Policy plays a very important role in illegal immigration. The laws in the United States specify that if you illegally enter this country (ex: enter the US without official permission from the US government to enter) you are considered to be violating a law in the US. This law I believes continues today. It has not changed. In the past an amnesty was permitted in hope to know who the illegal immigrants are in this country as well as stop illegal immigration. The US government is still undergoing a immigration reform and still do not know how to handle the illegal immigration occurring today in the US. However, this leads to the fact that illegal immigration is still a social problem because there are millions of illegal immigrants residing in the US today. The government constructs statistics, debates, and etc., and there is still no solution to this problem, therefore it maintains the social problem in population and violating laws.


Illegal immigrants are also hurt by an education system that does not understand how to adequately handle them and contributes to the perpetuation of poverty in illegal immigrants. Few schools in the country offer bilingual education, and even fewer (less than 20% according to the Department of Education) have a teacher that can speak Spanish fluently. This causes illegal immigrants and children of undocumented immigrants to feel different, alone in a new and confusing place and dumb. This poor self-esteem causes them to have poorer test scores in both math and science as well as English.

Furthermore, there are few after-school programs geared towards bilingual students which causes the students to have different experiences than their English speaking classmates. Early education, after-school programs have proven results with English speaking students; these same advantages are unavailable to the majority of undocumented students and children of undocumented immigrants. The education system perpetuates inequality because it truly gives different experiences to those children.


Illegal immigration has developed problems through many institutions, but education has influenced a negative perception of illegal immigrants. People experience everyday things differently such as, walking at the park, eating in a restaurant, and many more, but adding the issue of illegal immigration and their personal experiences increases the change to their experiences. Not only do the people in the U.S who oppose illegal immigration experiences change, but illegal immigrants experience change as well. However, how did the perceived individual problems start? How do people have positive and negative perceptions towards illegal immigration?

Education brought forward many problematic situations concerning illegal immigrants and influenced the perceptions people obtained. One of many court cases that opened the discussion whether education should be free for illegal immigrants was proposition 187. Proposition gave way to the negative experiences illegal immigrants face. Due to the fact, that Proposition 187 denies welfare benefits, education, and all but emergency medical care, it also provides negative-opinions towards illegal immigrants (Lee and Ottati, 2001: 431). Many
people believe that Proposition 187 is doing the right thing and thus believe illegal immigrants are getting what they deserve. Due to the perspectives many people have affects illegal immigrants experiences. One-way illegal immigrants experience changes as stated by Lee and Ottati is “shared threat among group members can increase salience of group identity” (Lee and Ottati, 2001: 432). Because people such as the Anglos in the U.S strongly believe education should be provided to U.S citizens, they feel negatively towards the illegal immigrants who are being provided with education.

However, the 1982 Court decision Plyer vs. Doe granted education for undocumented children form K-12, but denied financial aid for college or universities (Drachman, 2006: 91). It is important to note that many un
documented students experience many hardships because they are unable to pay for higher education. Many times undocumented students are turned away because financial reasons (Drachman, 2006: 92). Undocumented students do not find it easy to attend higher education making their experiences unpleasant. Also, a shocking statement provided by Drachman when he claims “Many undocumented students suffer from serious psychological and emotional distress” (Drachman, 2006: 96). The experiences undocumented students face affects them dramatically. Many cannot afford postsecondary education and feel scared to reveal they are undocumented because they can be deported. Also, undocumented students feel they are living in the shadows of society because they are not provided necessary resources to reach their educational goals. Illegal immigrants cannot live peacefully because education motivates unpleasant experiences and until education provides help they will continue to experience unnecessary hardships.


K-12 Public Education

Bilingual/Immigrant programs are necessary for schools so that these students can learn the English language and become proficient in it. Immigrant drop out rates may be high because they do not get enough attention from faculty members at their schools. They may also not relate to school staff. Basically this leads me to say that the Latino and immigrant populations are high in California and in other states, and these children will one day be the majority of the states because of the high growth rate. Therefore, it is the best interest of the public to make sure these children are educated in forms that will benefit them.

The only solution I can come up with to decrease the drop out rate of these students is by creating more programs for educational outreach. These programs can help these students by providing them mentors that connect with them on a personal level by race and experiences. Programs like these exist already, but we need to add them to as many schools as possible, starting at a young age so that these children will not fall in the educational pipeline.

Higher Education

One way illegal immigrants would be able to attend post secondary education and prejudice towards illegal immigrants would decrease is providing resources for higher education. Education has the ability to improve the U.S by allowing everyone to be able to attend post secondary schools. By increasing the number of students education_1.jpggraduating from higher education, more people will be able to contribute to the U.S with their high paying jobs. Not only will more undocumented students be able to improve their lives, but they would be able to show their qualities to people and provide reasons to change their negative perceptions towards them. Espensade and Calhoun state, “Several studies found that negative attitudes towards immigrants decrease with more education” (Espensade and Calhoun, 1993: 195). The solution is clear, that is, allowing and providing resources such as financial aid to undocumented students who are attending higher education. However, not only do undocumented students obtain the privileged to attend post secondary schools, but with more people attending higher education the less negative attitudes towards immigrants is witness.

The best path and option to take towards providing undocumented students resources and reduce the prejudice against illegal immigrants is through the Dream Act. The Dream Act mandates the right to offer in- state tuition and financial aid to undocumented student. In the long run, undocumented students would be able to earn citizenship. The most important thing is that undocumented students would be given the privileged and resources to attend higher education. All the results lead to a better America and better understanding of illegal immigrants without any prejudice.


We all contributed on our groups Wikispace.
Alejandra Rafael
Raul Lopez
Subhan Cheema

Work Cited

Bean, Frank D. and Susan Brown. 2006. Mexican Immigrant Political and Economic
. Irvine, CA

Drachman, Edward. 2006. Access to Higher Education for Undocumented Students.
Peace Review,18(1), 91-100

Espenshade, Thomas J. and Charles A. Calhoun. 1993. An Analysis of Public Opinion
Toward Undocumented Immigration
. Princeton, CA: Office of Population Research

Lee, Yueh-Ting. and Victor Ottati. 2001. Attitudes Towards “Illegal” Immigration Into
the United States: California Proposition 187
. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences

Nadadur, Ramanujan. 2009. “Illegal Immigration: A Positive Economic Contribution to the United States.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 35(6), 1037-1052.

Immigration and School Overcrowding. 2002. The Federation for American Immigration Reform.