Equity & Diversity

Book Author: Teachers Have Insight Into Illegal Immigration

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 27, 2010 1 min read
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A discussion is under way and continuing through Friday over at the Teacher channel with Helen Thorpe, author of Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America. So far, several teachers have weighed in on how they are frustrated that some of their students don’t meet their full potential because of the constraints of not having papers to live legally in this country. The participants in the discussion thus far seem to be in favor of a policy change in this country that would give those students a path toward legalization.

For her book, Thorpe followed four girls of Mexican heritage who were close friends. Two have legal status to live in the United States and two do not.

Thorpe opens her comments by saying that as she has traveled around the country talking about her book, which focuses on the issue of illegal immigration, she has discovered many teachers in her audiences. “This isn’t surprising,” she writes, “as teachers are often the primary point of intersection between immigrant families and the rest of American society.”

She says that teachers typically understand that students who are undocumented have inherited a set of circumstances that they didn’t create.

In the discussion, a middle school teacher in Maryland writes, “It was frustrating to learn that undocumented students could not attend our local community college, and many could not afford to pay higher tuition rates at the four-year colleges or vo-tech schools in the area. So many young people are trapped with a diploma and nowhere to go after high school.”

Another teacher says that “I am concerned about non-AP students who are also interested in college, but don’t have the same ability to attract the attention the four stellar girls in your book did.”

Thorpe replies that it’s true in her experience that “it’s easier for only the top-achieving undocumented students to gain the attention of private donors, and put together private dollars to pay for college.”

Readers, even if you haven’t read the book, you’re invited to join the discussion and ask someone who spent five years following two undocumented students what impact their immigration status had on their educational prospects.

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