Every year thousands of undocumented students graduate from high school with uncertainty about a post-secondary education. Many of these students do not have the financial means, and are often too scared about their legal status to continue their education. This issue is extremely prevalent in the state of California, hosting 2.6 million “alien residents”, it has the largest population of undocumented immigrants (Gonzales, 2006). Immigration policies have been controversial topics in the United States for a long time. Although there is still an ongoing debate about reforming the current immigration laws, there has been progress in making post-secondary education a possibility for undocumented students. This paper will focus on the California DREAM Act of 2011, using a historical perspective to explain the formation of the policy, how was the issue address prior to the DREAM Act, and how the DREAM Act has addressed the issue.
1. What historical problems/court cases led to the creation of the California DREAM Act?
The Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe of 1982 was a landmark case which held that the states could not deny undocumented students access to public K-12 education (Kim, 2013). In a 5-4 decision, the court found that there was not substantial financial burden imposed to the state by providing undocumented students with an education. Also, denying an education to undocumented students would not prevent future illegal immigration (Frum, 2007). Although the court case decision did not provided students with postsecondary education, Plyler v. Doe allowed undocumented students to have access to primary and secondary education.
In California, the court case Leticia A. v. the UC Regents and the CSU Board of Truste...
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Kim, C. (2013). Lost American DREAM of undocumented students: Understanding the DREAM (development, relief, and education for alien minors) act. Children & Schools, 35(1), 55-58. doi:10.1093/cs/cds041
National Immigration Law Center. (2011). DREAM Act: Summary. Retrieved from
Olivas, M.A. “IIRIRA, the DREAM Act, and Undocumented Residency.” Journal of College
and University Law, 30;435-464. 2004.
Perez, R., Jones, B. (2007) The AB 540 student and legal history [PowerPoint slides] Retrieved
from COS Puente Project online website:
Schmid, C. L. (2013). Undocumented Childhood Immigrants. the dream act and deferred action.
International Journal of Sociology & Social Policy, 33(11), 693-707.
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