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« Joe Reagan and This I Believe | Main | This Weekend »

Children Without Papers  

By Ariana Pekary, producer 


Bob with Isabel CastilloIn 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Plyler v. Doe that state schools cannot discriminate against children based on their legal resident status.  The state of Texas wanted to withhold funds to schools attended by undocumented students.  SCOTUS argued that action was “directed against children, and impose[d] its discriminatory burden on the basis of a legal characteristic over which children can have little control.”

So since then, immigrant students have been able to attend public schools (grades K-12), regardless of their status.  What that means now is that every year an estimated 65,000 students graduate from high school, but without a social security number, it’s nearly impossible to find a job or go on to college.  Many of the young people also feel it isn’t possible to return to their country of origin.  They are no longer familiar with the culture or language.

That creates another problem: now an estimated two million young people with high school diplomas are languishing, not using their education nor talents.  Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) proposed legislation in 2001 that would help fix the problem.  It requires two years of college education or two years of military service, and will help get those on the path to citizenship (which is still more than a ten year process). 

Isabel Castillo is one of the many young Dream Activists  who have “come out” in the last couple of years to push for the Dream Act.  She’s a stellar example of what children of immigrants can do.  But not everyone has her drive and spunk, so unfortunately, most don’t make it to college.

The Dream Activists in the United States are a diverse group.  Yo Sub is a Korean-American featured in the film, Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth.  He earned a 4.5 weighted GPA in high school, but was rejected in his first two rounds of college applications.  These are strong, resilient minds that the United States could use.  What’s more, going back to that Supreme Court ruling, some question the wisdom of “the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime.” 

Lastly, here’s a rundown about the individuals interviewed in today’s show:

Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens 

Anne Galisky, Producer, Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth

Deanna Durham, Isabel Castillo’s former professor 

Sam Nickles, Diversity Coordinator, NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center 

Sandy Mercer, Harrisonburg High School teacher 


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Reader Comments (10)

Go Isabel! I have no doubt the law will change through the hard work, courage and patience of people like you.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Where are the other individuals that were interviewed for the show to provide information on why this DREAM Act is currently illegal? It's been thought through before and the reasons are still accurate that many people are choosing to ignore. I understand having a bleeding heart for the cause, but no one had sympathy on me and my family when we came here LEGALLY and it was just as hard a struggle, (if not more since we "jumped through no loops" so to speak) for many, many years. It might not be the illegal immigrant childrens' faults, but why is it the American taxpayer's fault? Put some thought behind your emotion and study the evidence that proves why the DREAM Act really is a bad idea.

Ms. Castillo is obviously the kind of adult that we desperately need in this country: extremely bright, self-motivated, and with a work ethic most of us should be proud to emulate. Lacking papers and the ability to qualify for student aid, she put herself through college with high honors. I recall how hard it was to work through school decades ago and I had some financial aid. The costs have skyrocketed since then. Um...Senator Graham, please define for me the ideal American.

Isabel should not have the sins of her parents, assuming for the moment that they are sins, be suffered on her.

Lets put pettiness aside, reform our immigration laws, and give Isabel the legal status that she obviously and so richly deserves. Its a little ironic that it will be the Isabel Castillos who will probably dig us out of the economic mess we are in, all the while being slammed by so-called native sons and daughters. Almost all of whom came here from somewhere else.

Thanks, Mr. Edwards, for a compelling story. I hope our Congressional delegations were listening. And all my best to Ms. Castillo.

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKhal Spencer

The Dream Act will provide undocumented students the same chance at a future we want of all young peopel in the U.S. Honestly, I am not afraid of the competition from undocumented students from Mexico. The many young Dreamers I know are very bright and would be a lot of fun to go to school with. Their perspectives and drive make the learning experience that much better.

These are people who came here when they were to young to understand what international law was, what the politics of migration entail, where the root of racism lies. All most them understood very well is how it feels to have an empty belly. Many did not even understand that well because they were mere infants.

Dreamers have a long haul to get through the conditions of the Dream Act. At the end of the day they will help add 3 billion to the treasury. They will contribute to our society. Let's invite them in with open arms and get on to solving other problems in the U.S. " I believe it is right for immigrants2bfree "

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Paynter

I have respected Mr. Edwards' journalistic integrity for a long time, but today, I am very very dissappointed by the show's intention of making the entire segment into a sob fest and completely ignoring many many important facts about the illegality of the "undocumented" students.

Let me just tell all of you one cold fact about immigration laws:
If there's a brilliant foreign student(someone from say, Pakistan, India, China, Germany, Spain, entering the country LEGALLY)
who was accepted into Harvard, Yale, MIT, with full scholarships to study with the most esteemed scholars in the world. During the time of his/her study, the student achieved exceptional
scholastic accomplishments and contributed tremendiously to both the academic and the local communities. However, for some reasons to complicated to explain, he/she overstayed the student visa and didn't have it extended and it was too late to do anything with the papers. And do you know what would happen, DEPORTATION WITHOUT EXCEPTION!!!
here's my sob story for all of you:
I still remember when my dad had to sell the little bit of gold that he and my mom saved for decades, and my mom borrowing money from her wealthy but snobbish friend so there will be enough money in their checking account to show the U.S immigration that we won't be burdening the society with study and living costs.

Many times I heard on NPR that many of the illegals would pay THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS to be smuggled in the U.S. but they wouldn't bother to get in through the proper channel.

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChia-Li Sung

Bob Edwards show, why don't you do a show about the STRUGGLES of those who came here LEGALLY?
We have to meet extremely stringent requirements just to enter the country. We are not allowed to do unauthorized work, we get taken advantage of by employers, and unlike the majority of the "undocumented" who have the advantage of being under the radar, we can even exploit the health care, welfare system like the illegals have done blissfully for decades. Oh, by the way,
most of us who came here to study have to be at least twice as good as this young woman you so adore.

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChia-Li Sung

How can you say (with a straight face) that those demonstrating have to be cautious, as breaking the law can exclude them from help from the Dream Act, when of course they have already broken the law by being here and coming here illegally. And no, I would not "do anything" for my children, such as enable a drug habit, hide them from the law, etc. etc.

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Its about doing the right thing....that is why this courtry is in the mess we are in today with other issues that affect us all! Prejudice and greed is the root of all evil! These young people just want to contribute to this Country and they already have been contributing positively by demonstrating that they have stayed and finished school and want to pursue college educations to continue to contribute positively to their communities and this country. Unfortunately there will alway be ignorant people who will let their bigot feelings get in the way of what is right and what is just and what is best for our country. They can't look past the skin color and or last name of other human beings and let their own insecurities blind them. Isabel felicidades por tener el valor y convicsion para luchar por lo que es bueno y honesto. Que Dios te bendiga en to lucha y tus sacrificios por querer ayudar a otros y a ti misma y por contibuir positivamente a este pais, que es tu pais...Este mundo es un lugar mejor por personas como tu que sacrifican todo para mejorar las vidas de los demas. I wish you all the best and may you and all those (public elected servants) who have given the power and responsibility to better our country and humanity use their wisdom and the power and that God has entrusted to them to use it wisely and make the only decision that is right, the decision to better others that want to better themselves and contribute positively to this country and humanity as a whole.

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermaria clark

Who put these children in this position? WHO? They entered this country ILLEGALLY and we are suppose to give them AMNESTY? I say no. Get the parents to take these kids back to their own country. With the education that the American taxpayers paid for these illegal aliens, they should do just fine in their own country. Why should they be in competition with American students? Yes, why? Are we starting to see all the problems with this illegal immigration? Are we? That's why we have laws. That's why we have a system to enter this country, yet 20 million illegal aliens snubbed their nose at our laws and now want amnesty. I say NO! I say HELL NO!

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDelaware Bob

The DREAM act sounds like a good way for kids who were brought here by their parents illegally to become citizens. However, I still feel uncomfortable with providing for illegal (undocumented, whatever) aliens mostly because I would never dream of expecting the same (and indeed wouldn't get) from another country if I entered that country illegally. It's sad that Americans are thought of as selfish and racist when they think in such a manner In my mind it has nothing to do with race but fairness. And I do, indeed, feel for those who came here legally and want to do right, pay for their education, pay taxes, be contributing citizens, and yet still find it difficult to stay in this country legally. In other words, I don't think folks who come here illegally should expect the same benefits as full-on citizens, no matter how well they perform in school, no matter how hard they work, etc. Again, I wouldn't expect the same of another country--I would expect to go through the proper channels and be accounted for.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

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