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The Right to Education
With the Trump Administration’s vow to put “America first” in its foreign policy, illegal immigrants now stand in the face of heightened nationalistic sentiments behind promises of a southern border wall and increased deportation. This goes against everything that the “ land of opportunity” represents. But despite conflicting views, the United States has both the legal and righteous obligation to provide education for immigrants. Though it will not be a walk in the park to implement standards to reform inconsistent policies of programs to aid the transition of these students, it is necessary for the advancement of the country.
The United States was founded on the basis of human rights, and denying children the right to public education on account of their immigration status is immoral. It is manifest that many new arrivals bear scars from violence and poverty of their home countries and have gone through tremendous trouble to get here (Brown). Education has an immense impact on shaping the future of students and in dealing with these taxing transitions, schools need to be a constant, especially for those dealing with the weight of being separated from their families. With a surge of 282 foreign students in 2016 and 396 in 2015, High Point High School in Maryland represents a prototype of how schools should adjust to accommodate newcomers. “School is the place where people have your back,” Principle Sandra Jimenez of High Point says. “If you don’t feel safe, you can’t learn” (Brown).
Subsequently, as many of the arrivals don’t speak English, special services must also encompass “programs for students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP)” (“The Elephant in the Classroom”). To support new students, High Point has hosted “evening workshops on family reunification” and the hiring of bilingual staff (Brown). In doing so, children are provided with footing for their future in the United States.
However, in spite of these compassionate intentions, funding for these special services is costly. With institutions already strapped for resources, it is becoming increasingly tough to account for the growing thousands of immigrant children. Though it is assumed that southern border states are the ones predominantly struggling with the influx of immigrant students, “11 of the 13 states spending more than $1 billion on LEP programs don’t border Mexico (“The Elephant in the Classroom”). Even though this is a crisis throughout the entire country, it also is one that produces its own solution. In most recent estimates, “unauthorized immigrant workers and their employers contribute $13 billion in payroll taxes in 2010” (Blanco). Though they could easily get away with avoiding them, millions pay taxes because they are “trying to abide by the law and [are] fufil[ing] their civic and financial responsibilities, attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Jose Magaña says. As the number of undocumented students rise, so will the number of undocumented workers that contribute the funding of public education. Their contributions will continue to rise because filing taxes helps to prove records of existence in the country if ever before an immigration judge facing deportation.
From a legal standpoint, in the 1982 Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe that declared states could not deny students free public education on account of their immigration status. Justices concluded that resources saved by excluding undocumented students were outweighed by the harms on society as a whole. For example, without the support of school, students are “often under pressure from gangs seeking new recruits” (Brown). Even still, localities and states attempted to adopt “unofficial policies” that defy the spirit of the decision (“Public Education for Immigrant Students”). Requiring families to disclose their immigration status made them feel “threatened or just plain unwelcome” (Thompson). Inconsistencies in the system only preserve xenophobic ways of thought and further divide the country, which is the opposite of what programs like LEP are intended for. When the Alabama legislature in 2011 enacted a similar policy, “more than 13 percent of Latino students in the state withdrew from public schools between September 2011 and February 2012” (“Public Education for Immigrant Students”). Uneven policies like this promote absenteeism and add fear and stress among students and their families.
When Wilson Santos came to the United States from Guatemala four years ago, he never expected to attend school. Still, education became his lifeline. Currently, he works a “construction job on weekends,” and “expects to graduate from High Point year and hopes to own a business someday” (Brown). Those like Santos provide direct evidence that immigrants are not a burden, but when given the opportunity, can achieve greatness. Schooling is just a stepping stone for immigrants to give back to the country that took them in. Online shopping sites like Ebay to yogurt brands like Chobani founded serve as an emblem for what newcomers are able to overcome and the heights they can achieve (Cain). Regardless of the stigmas and prejudice they continually face, immigrants have proven time and time again that they are the opposite of deplorable, and are actually what make the United States arguably the most influential nation in the world.
Blanco, Octavio. “Why undocumented immigrants pay taxes.” CNN Money, 19 Apr. 2017. Accessed 24 Oct. 2017.
Brown, Emma. “As immigration resurges, U.S. public schools help children find their footing.” The Washington Post, 7 Feb. 2016. Accessed 26 Oct. 2017.
Cain, Aíne. :From Tesla to Pfizer: 14 major US companies founded by immigrants.” Business Insider, 2 Feb. 2012. Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.
“The Elephant in the Classroom: Mass Immigration’s Impact on Public Education.” FAIR, Sept. 2016. Accessed 25 Oct. 2017.
“Public Education for Immigrant Students: Understanding Plyler v. Doe.” American Immigration Council, 24 Oct. 2016. Accessed 25 Oct. 2017.
Thompson, Ginger. “Where Education and Assimilation Collide.” The New York Times, 14 Mar. 2009. Accessed 26 Oct. 2017.
Anderson, Melinda D. “How Fears of Deportation Harm Kids’ Education.” The Atlantic, 26 Jan. 2016. Accessed 27 Oct. 2017.
Gross, Natalie. “The Schools Transforming Immigrant Education.” The Atlantic, 13 July 2017. Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.
Robets, Jeff John. “7 Well-Known Tech Firms Founded by Immigrants or Their Children.” Fortune, 30 Jan. 2017. Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.
“Undocumented Americans.” American Psychological Association. Accessed 27 Oct. 2017.