No aid for undocumented students

“Work, study, get ahead” doesn’t apply to students who were brought here illegally as children, writes Dulce Martinez in the San Jose Mercury News. Some of her classmates at Downtown College Prep, the school I write about in Our School, qualify for top universities but don’t qualify for the financial aid they need to attend.

Mayra, a 17-year-old who graduated recently from Downtown College Preparatory in San Jose with top grades, had hopes of going to a four-year university and becoming a lawyer. There is only one problem, which she can’t fix.

She entered the United States illegally when she was 4 years old after her parents determined that if they stayed in Mexico they could all starve. As an undocumented immigrant, she’s ineligible for government financial aid.

. . . Mayra thought that she was as American as anyone.

. . . Perla’s parents smuggled her into America when she was 9. Also a 2007 Downtown College Prep graduate, she has all the qualities universities look for: She participated in student government, passed Advanced Placement classes and tutored struggling students. And yet when it came to applying to a university, she had all doors slammed in her face. “I feel betrayed by the country I call my home,” Perla said.

While Mayra and Perla see themselves as Americans, legally they have no right to be here.

The column, written in a summer journalism workshop, drew jeers from readers who want all illegals deported, writes Dan Greene, of Exponential Curve, a DCP math teacher. But Berkeley’s chancellor agrees that talented students who qualify academically for college should receive aid if they’ve graduated from a California high school and lived five or more years in the U.S. With a college education or not, people brought here as children are going to stay in this country.

Mayra was accepted at a good private university but couldn’t afford to attend, so she’s starting at community college with hopes of transferring after two years. Perla will go to community college then transfer to a California State University school. Their plans are realistic because DCP promises privately funded scholarships for the last two years of college for undocumented graduates who start at community college.

The school also has an “alumni counselor” who helps graduates deal with financial aid or academic problems so they aren’t derailed on the path to a four-year degree. Perhaps marriage counseling should be included: Marrying a citizen is the easiest path to legal status.

About Joanne


  1. Nels Nelson says:

    There was an article a few days ago about how it’s becoming more difficult for illegal immigrants to obtain marriage licenses:

  2. Half Canadian says:

    They do have some other options.

    The first is to start the paperwork to becoming legal. Not a citizen, but a legal resident.

    The second is to explore options for attending school in Mexico. If the government there wasn’t such a basket case, they should leap at the opportunity to attract this type of talent back.

    But, as cold as this may sound, why should I care if we’re short one more lawyer? If she wanted to be an engineer, statistician, biologist, etc., then I’d care. But lawyer? Don’t need anymore of them.

  3. Myra’s parents have had eight years to work on this problem; they’re the ones who did the betraying. Did they think she’d never grow up?

  4. Bill Leonard says:

    There are several points here.

    1. It speaks volumes about the political bias of the San Jose Mercury News that some 17 year old whose citizenship may well be dubious, has an editorial page view in a major metropolitan paper.

    2. Note that the complaint is not that the illegal kid cannot attend a community or four-year college, only that she can’t get government aid to do so.

    3. Note the mindset: the government should do something to help those here illegally (and, I suppose, anyone else who wanders down the pike). Whatever happened to individual responsibility? I was a kid from a blue collar family that hit very hard times. I got through a four-year state school (not Stanford, but I’m smart enough to get in outta the rain) by working as a fill-in delivery boy, a night filing clerk, a part-time newspaper reporter (also swept up at night), and by loading trucks and rail cars in a cannery, 48 hours per week, straight time. But I made it.

    4. Finally, what do we owe any illegal besides deportation? Those whose hearts bleed for the illegal might want to talk to my son’s in-laws, Colombian immigrants who came here the long, legal way, learned English, worked hard, and have done quite well, thank you. Not rich, but OK. You want to hear what they have to say about illegals.

  5. Replicant says:

    People would be more willing to make compassionate allowances for SOME illegal aliens if they didn’t have a decade of proof that their good nature will merely be taken advantage of by the OTHER millions of illegals.

    When laxity is the rule, calls for more laxity gather little pity. I’m sorry for Mayra – but I wouldn’t vote to help her, or blame other Americans who feel the same way.

  6. greifer says:

    So what? Not all people get federal aid. She can get a loan. It won’t be federal aid, but she can get a loan. She’ll be a lawyer. She can pay it off.

  7. As a legal immigrant and naturalized citizen they don’t get dick-all from me.

    I don’t give a damn how long they’ve been here, what fine examples of humankind they may be or their aspirations. Every time I read some “there, there little illegal” head-patting article all I see is a dismissal of my parents and relatives, and every other legal immigrant, as stupid shmucks for going through the process.

  8. On top of all these comments, which I agree with, there’s the fact that by encouraging *good* students we end up with thousands of terrible students. Illegal immigrants have wreaked tremendous damage on public schools. We’re supposed to celebrate because a few of them end up with good grades? Please.

  9. Sic Semper Tyrannis says:

    Now that the authorities at the agency formerly known as the INS know where she is, she should be far easier to deport. Her next interview with an American newspaper should be conducted from Mexico.

  10. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If her daddy robbed a bank would the Murky Turkey bemoan the heartless government that would not let the innocent daughter keep the loot?

  11. when one group gets gov handouts, another new group crops up that feels entitled too. That’s what happens with gov handouts.

    I didn’t get no stinkin handouts so you shouldn’t either is not a good argument. Our gov can’t afford to handout college tuition to every group who think they are deserving is a better one, illegal or not.