I am thrilled to have learned yesterday that a juvenile court judge in the State of Utah made a positive ruling in the case of a teenage boy who has lived in this country without proper papers since he was five years. The ruling clears the way for the young man to gain legal resident status in the U.S. You can read about this young man's situation by clicking on this link. The article was published in Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah this past weekend.
This historic ruling is great news to all of us who work or have worked with this special population of students. It is, in my opinion, the right decision that brings hope and justice to one kid. One can only hope that the ruling is setting a positive precedent for the future.
My Personal Connections and Views on Working with Immigrant Children
As many of you know, I have worked for many years as teacher to those students for whom English is not the home language. This area of the educational world has long been my passion. I have worked with students who have come to this country with papers, and with those who have come without papers. I never knew for sure the legal status of my students, not did I care about their legal status. In fact, as teacher in the public school system I was barred from inquiring about my students' legal status because of the Supreme Court Ruling Plyer vs. Doe 1982. I am often shocked to find out how much misinformation there is out there in regard to the rights of immigrant students when it comes to public education. Plyer vs. Doe clearly stated the rights of these students when it ruled: "public schools were prohibited from denying immigrant students access to a public education. The Court stated that undocumented children have the same right to a free public education as U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Undocumented immigrant students are obligated, as are all other students, to attend school until they reach the age mandated by state law."
Now, the Dream Act is being addressed in the news. The sad thing about working with students who may be undocumented is that they find themselves in a situation that they did not create. They are brought to this country with or without proper papers through no fault of their own. Many work hard in school, learn a new language, integrate into a new culture, and then are denied access to state institutions of higher learning as residents of the state in which they may have resided for years. They are caught in some sort of legal and cultural limbo as they progress into adulthood.
Those of us who work with this population come to deeply love and respect these students. We see them vilified in the public sector through no fault of their own. We see them subjected to racial profiling, and other forms of subtle and not so subtle forms of discrimination and prejudice. Frankly, it is heartbreaking and discouraging to hear and read some of the prejudicial emails that circulate about this population of families that now live in our country.
I am all for legal means of coming to this country. I am not in support of punishing the innocent victims who are undocumented because of the decisions of their parents. To be honest with you, I have worked with gang members whose families have been in this country for generations. I have also worked with immigrant families. There is a wide divide between these two populations.
I am personally thrilled to hear that one young undocumented student may have a more positive future because of the ruling of this juvenile court judge in Utah. Congratulations to all concerned.