Protestors hold a sign that reads "Undocumented, Unafraid" at an undocumented students rally in April 2016. (Project Luz / Flickr)

Education

Opinion: LAUSD vs. undocumented students

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Donald Trump said in his campaign launch speech in 2015. Trump,…

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Donald Trump said in his campaign launch speech in 2015.

Trump, the former president, is frankly one of the biggest idols of the anti-undocumented mentality.

Immigration is such a controversial topic in United States politics, with one side supporting the aid and legalization of undocumented immigrants, whilst others completely against any rights or aid for this community.

The controversy surrounds the Latin American mafia transporting illegal drugs to the country, the “human smugglers,” and the immigrants who cross the border, often in search of “the American dream.”

In United States politics, these three groups are linked together and create a wave of stereotypical “felon” identity attached to the undocumented immigrants who do cross the border in search of the American dream.”

The undocumented community is still referred to with dehumanizing language such as “aliens” and “illegals,” which has very negative connotations and is often used by anti-immigrant and anti-undocumented thinking people.

But not only do the Americans themselves harm the undocumented community, so does the government, especially under very conservative governments.

Proof of this has been shown with how the government handles the education of undocumented children. Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals, DACA recipients or DREAMERS are often the faces of education for undocumented immigrants, which is a very forgotten topic in the ocean of immigration. Although, it’s not only those students who are affected. 

As of 2020 in the United States, immigrants account for approximately 13.7% of the population. Most immigrants reside in the United States legally, while 23% are unauthorized immigrants, according to Pew Research Center

In California, about 250,000 students ages 3 to 17 in the public education system are undocumented, according to the nonprofit The 74 Million.

Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the country, accounts for some of these students. As the second-largest school district, why isn’t LAUSD pushing to help out their undocumented student population have access to post-secondary education?

LAUSD must provide more resources to undocumented students because the district serves a student population that is predominantly Latinx. There is a lack of resources from the district to directly support undocumented students. 

According to the Los Angeles Regional Adult Education Consortium website, most of LAUSD’s student population is Latino at 73.4%

Immigration is often seen to target those of the Latinx community, often because of the stigma surrounding the Latin American immigrants migrating to the United States.

Yet, even as immigration correlates, to some extent to the Latinx community, it is important to emphasize that the lack of accessibility of post-secondary education for undocumented students doesn’t only affect the Latinx community, it also affects people of color.

The U.S. immigration system is a fairly broken system that does not favor people of color. Immigration and legalization does not only affect Latinos.

At the societal level, because Latin America is south of the border of the United States, which contains “The Wall,” from where most immigrants seem to cross without legalization, is why the topic of immigration is so closely correlated to the Latinx community.

Looking through that societal perspective, if immigration is so closely correlated to the Latinx community, and LAUSD being a Latinx school district, why is there a lack of resources to aid their students in attaining a post-secondary education? Sure, most districts want their students to succeed because it brings prestige to their name, if that’s the case, shouldn’t LAUSD want to try their best to also allow the academic flourishing of their undocumented students? 

Through extensive interviews as well as personal experience, it can be easily seen the lack of resources from LAUSD of which the staff and students themselves are aware. Personally, I have not heard of a single resource that can provide access to post-secondary education to LAUSD undocumented high school students from LAUSD themselves.

I have heard of the recently implemented School Enrollment Placement & Assessment Center, or SEPA which only helps new-coming immigrant students and their families with basic needs such as help with the school-enrolling process, immunizations, physicals, etc. Yet, there is no resource to aid with the accessibility of a post-secondary education of which I am aware of that comes directly from LAUSD. 

The DREAM Act allows qualified DREAMERS to access federal aid for select schools as well as AB 540 which is also only available to immigrants who have some sort of documentation. Although, these resources are only available to immigrants/undocumented students who already have some sort of legal documentation. LAUSD should offer more resources to directly support undocumented students.

There are very minimal sources that aid students with absolutely no documentation with a higher education.

I interviewed several LAUSD students and teachers who were willing to speak on this topic.

A LAUSD student who wished to remain anonymous said, “LAUSD is managing their undocumented students very poorly. I’m part of the school site council and on my understanding, where the budget is allocated, there is enough money to provide for employees, who are undocumented or know about resources provided to the undocumented community. The grade and pass rate of the English exam is very low, students are doing very poorly, the budget should be moved to undocumented students to do better in state assessments.”

Jasmine Wang, a teacher at a LAUSD school said there’s a lack of support on behalf of LAUSD to their undocumented student community.

“Not every campus has a college counselor. If the goal is a 100% college-going population, we have to start early. There is no college counselor for specifically undocumented students, especially those who experienced it themselves,” Wang said. “On a big scale, we are already struggling with general students. We are not doing a good job. Is there enough money? The state should prioritize money. During COVID, everything fell on the school district and not the state.”

Various students and teachers who are part of LAUSD struggle to see resources on behalf of their school district which can provide a “college-going” environment for their undocumented students. If students and teachers of LAUSD fail to find or know about resources regarding the higher education of undocumented students, this concludes that LAUSD fails to push out these resources or efficiently promote them to their audience. 

Often when in the process of research, the first instinct is to always look at the site of the organization(s) which is involved in the topic of choice. In this case, the “organization” involved with undocumented students’ education is LAUSD.

LAUSD is the school district I attend and is the second-largest school district in the United States, following the New York City Department of Education.

Although some resources aid new-coming immigrant families, they often do not follow through graduation and post-secondary education. On their website, they only have the SEPA program, which helps immigrant families with basic survival needs, but SEPA doesn’t follow through until the graduation of students. The only resources which are promoted in the education sector for undocumented students are resources from the state, and not LAUSD themselves.

Other than SEPA, there are no other resources that can allow access to post-secondary education to the undocumented student population. One of the many challenges undocumented students face is the language barrier, not being able to communicate with staff members to express their needs and properly learn.

LAUSD’s We Are One Education and Immigration resources states, “English Learners who are newcomers enrolling in high school as their first school experience in the United States may remain in high school until graduation requirements are met or through the age of 21, whichever comes first, as long as the academic progress sufficient to meet the graduation requirements is made.”

LAUSD seeks to attain that graduation percentage, seemingly depicting students as numbers and positive statics to generate wealth and prestige. Instead of seeking to pressure our undocumented students to strive solely due to prestige, what can LAUSD implement to allow their undocumented students to succeed?

LAUSD can’t expect a high graduation rate and college-going population without actually helping their students reach that level. Clearly, there is much room for improvement on behalf of LAUSD to allow their undocumented students to thrive academically. 

Of the United States population, some agree that undocumented students should be granted education at the grade level and the “college” level, yet there are also those who oppose such statements. Often, the conservative and Republican side of US politics argues against the education of undocumented students, which could be seen with the controversy of DACA under the Trump administration.

Yet, the argument regarding the denial of education for undocumented students ties in with the very racist tendencies of American politics, which is clearly shown with how the US immigration system targets people of color.

In 2011, Alabama, known as a rather conservative and Republican state, issued an immigration enforcement law that required the legal status of students at registration. After such enforcement, officials noticed that 5% of the Hispanic children population of that state were absent from classrooms, according to the New York Times in 2011. 

In the comment section of this 2011 Times article, Sara D. presented an opinion on this situation which highlights the opinions of the anti-education for undocumented students.

I do not believe that children of illegal immigrants should be able to receive an education, and I think that Alabama’s registration law is a good idea. The registration law is a good way to ensure that children of illegal immigrants are not attending the schools and receiving an amenity that children of the citizens of America are lucky to have,” she commented. “I know for a fact that my parents pay a lot of tax money to support my public school that I go to, and it wouldn’t be fair to them or any other citizens in America to have to pay tax money to allow a child of an illegal immigrant to go to public schools. The children of illegal immigrants are not supposed to be in this country, so they shouldn’t be allowed to attend our country’s public schools.” 

Morally, it is wrong to deny a child education. As children, we cannot control where our parents decide to move, even if we consent or do not consent. That being said, why should a child be denied an education simply because of the actions of their parents? In California, when the police spot a child not wearing their seatbelt, they don’t ticket the child, they ticket the parent.

Hence, in this case, why does the child have to pay the consequences of their parent’s actions? The double standard that the federal government implements to immigrants is quite ironic. Even so, denying a child an education only harms the government’s future as well as society.

Having an exponentially growing uneducated population won’t allow for the steady progress of the US as a whole. Eventually, that uneducated population will then depend on society as they have fallen into poverty, halting the progression of the United States.

The lack of education for the immigrant community would only enable consistent use of welfare programs that the legal “citizens” fear the abuse of.

As such, denying a child an education simply because of the excuse that “they don’t belong” harms the future of the United States whilst also further marginalizing the undocumented community. 

Undocumented children should not be denied education, as it harms the future of the United States. LAUSD should efficiently implement resources for their undocumented population to have access to higher education because of their lack of resources as well as how it seems to benefit society.

The future of the United States, as well as LAUSD, lies in the hands of undocumented students. It is only beneficial to provide access to education. If LAUSD seeks to maintain their prestigious graduation rate as well as their “college-going” population, they have to take action involved with undocumented students’ education.

It will allow such numbers to continue rising. LAUSD cannot expect success without establishing aid. It’s like expecting a seed to grow if you didn’t water it nor put it in soil. Numbers and statistics don’t show progress and achievement, the students do.