Postville’s Undocumented Schoolchildren

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 27, 2008 2 min read
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Some of the undocumented teenagers attending the Postville Community School District in Iowa talked last week with an Iowa reporter about how an immigration raid at a meatpacking plant in their community has made it seem unlikely that they’ll be able to go to college and have a career in this country. A 16-year-old who came to the United States with his family two years ago said he wants to study mechanical engineering, but since his 17-year-old sister was detained in the May 12 immigration raid, his family is talking about going back to Mexico.

Nine undocumented students granted interviews to The Gazette, an Iowa media outlet, for a May 22 article. They didn’t permit their names to be published.

Postville Superintendent David Strudthoff is using the media attention that the immigration raid has attracted to express disappointment that the U.S. Congress hasn’t passed some version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or the “DREAM Act,” which would give undocumented students who meet certain criteria a path to legal residency in the United States. See my post about how the act stalled in Congress in September 2007.

I see that a pro-immigrant group, One Dream 2009, has made videos for You Tube that focus on the impact of immigration raids on children and youth. One video is called “Voices”

and another is called “ICE Raids San Rafael May 2008.”

Of course, there are plenty of Americans, including many people who comment on this blog, who think that it’s a good thing for undocumented people to be deported, regardless of the impact on their families.

At the same time that the federal government is stepping up efforts to enforce immigration laws, some states are making it harder for undocumented people to get a college education here.

For example, the director of higher education for Arkansas, Jim Purcell, sent a letter to all Arkansas colleges and universities last week requiring university officials to ask applicants about their immigration status, according to a May 23 article in the Associated Press. The letter also essentially said that the state will not help to finance the education of undocumented students, according to AP.

Earlier this month, North Carolina’s system of community colleges became the first statewide system in the nation to bar undocumented students from enrolling. My colleague Scott Cech wrote about this policy decision for Education Week in a May 21 piece.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.