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WWL: Undocumented Teen Immigrants
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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Last year, about 65,000 graduated from American High Schools but only 5% went to college


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48:58 minutes (23.51 MB)
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*This program originally aired on 1/12/2010

Last year, about 65,000 graduated from American High Schools but only 5% went to college.

Illegal immigrants are not eligible for federal financial aid, so increasingly expensive higher education is often out of their reach. And, many worry that applying to college could expose their families to deportation.

Today, we’ll talk to high school students in Connecticut who want to go to college, but may not be able to because of their immigration status.

Proposed legislation to grant legal status to minors has been debated in Congress for eight years – and Connecticut has explored the idea of giving in-state tuition breaks to undocumented students. But so far, no changes have come.

Join the conversation – do you support laws that could help students who are in this country illegally? Is it a question of educational opportunity versus educational fairness?



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Listener Email from Frank

I just wanted to comment on this morning's story about the children of illegal imigrants.

I feel it is disingenuous to say these students cannot go to college.

I was born in this country as the son of Portuguese immigrants.  When I was 18, due to family difficulties, my family returned to Portugal and I chose to stay behind in the US and attend college.

While my peers were in Mexico living up Spring break, and enjoying their summer vacations I was working 60 hours per week.  During the school year I worked doubles shifts all weekend long and at times on week nights.

I cut costs by living with a bunch of peers and manged to graduate with minimal loans ($800). I did not qualify for financial aide and was not allowed to file as independent by the FAO.  I managed to graduate in 4 1/2 years while paying my own way.  I did apply for and earn some scholarship.

If you are comitted and willing to work hard and sacrefice some you too can go to college and graduate.
Thank you.

Where We Live....Undocument students

    I really cannot understand how this is a story with two sides.  Everyone could make their situations sound unfair and sad.  But directing some light on the reality of the situation is so important.

#1.  The students who spoke on the show did not help their individual cases.  None of them were so "smart" or "accomplished" that they could even speak English without mistakes.  I was unimpressed with all of them.  Their thinking isn't particularly clear. 

#2.  The first young man, Rafael, I think his name is, waxed heroic about his volunteer work.  Maybe he should have been more realistic and taken a paying job so he could save up to go to a community college as a start.  Eventually, he could work for a compnay that might help pay his tuition.  What about military service?   I am a teacher at a high school.  Some of my students, who are legal citizens, whose parents have been paying taxes, have opted to join the military to earn the GI bill benefits.  If that isn't possible, again, parents can sacrifice and put a little money on the side.  

#3.  If money is given to these undocumented students, it has to come from somewhere else.  Clearly, citizens would get less financial aid.  That would be unfair.  It is not the responsibility of the citizens of the US to provide for the illegal residents.  That's just wrong. 

#4.  To the young lady who said she didn't choose to be here, I say turn to your parents and confront them about this.  If anyone owes you an education it is them.  I didn't choose to have you come here.  Why should my child get less financial aid to give it to you.  Grow up.  Choose to do the hard thing and work to put yourself through college part time.  

#5.  My parents were born in the country.  I was one of seven children.  They didn't have money to put me through schoo.  I worked during the school year and summers in high school.  I saved my money and went to community college and eventually earned the money to finish a four year school.  Did I see other people have it much easier?  Of course.  Did I think it was unfair?  I guess so.  But the facts were what they were and I did what I had to do.  That's what the United States is about:  opportunity, not privilege.

#6.  None of those kids were scholarship material.  They may be successful in high school, but there are many routes to success.  People in the trades make a good living.  Become an apprentice.  Work hard. Stop whining about how you don't have the best of all worlds.  You've probably had  a better life than you would have in your own country.  That doesn't mean the taxpayers owe you more.

#7  I wish them luck.


The young man who came to

The young man who came to the United States alone at age 15 is eligible for, and really should be, committed to the Department of Children and Families. As an unaccompanied minor, I can't imagine where he lives or how pays for basic necessities, but DCF will care for him and pay his college tuition until graduation.

Thanks for your work Josh!

Listener Email from Nathalie

Even if they weren´t star students like they seem to be (and good for them), it is like John said: a question of educational fairness. Most undocumented kids had no choice in becoming illegal aliens. They are carrying the heavy burden of something their parents chose to do. These kids are not going to go anywhere, they are American in their hearts, and if they stay and have kids here, their kids will suffer the burden of coming from disadvantaged parents. The point made by the woman who came here legally is fair, but these kids are a special population that should not be punished for life for the misjudgments of others. To let them be where they are is going back many steps in human rights and obviously children's rights in particular.

Also, most immigrant pay taxes through the process described by Rafael (the ITalian kid), yet they don't receive the same benefits.

This group of kids is not sitting idly by either: http://trailofdreams.net/Home.html

Listener Email from Joseph

I listen to your program most mornings but I felt compelled to comment on today’s program.

I believe that any comment that starts with, “I’m here illegally but….” is self defeating.

If you are in this country under false pretenses, no matter for how long, no matter how many children you have, or were born here, it’s wrong !

We have laws for reasons. I understand that many of the children of these illegal immigrants have attended school but that does not absolve their parents from their illegal behavior. If you don’t like the current immigration laws then work to change them.

Listener Email from Susan

This is a parenting issue. As a mom, I make choices about my childrens' future every day. When families choose to oversay their visa, for example, they can't expect this country or this state to simply absorb the costs of that choice. I pity the kids who find college nearly impossible to pay for but millions of legal citizens also find college nearly impossible to pay for.

Let's not reward the law-breaking family. We are giving more incentive for people to enter illegally. If illegal immigrants could form their own funding source for financial support for education, that would be fine.

Punishing children for parents' sins

Susan says, "Let's not reward the law-breaking family." But we mustn't punish the children for their parents' lawbreaking either. When a baby is born addicted to drugs, we don't deny medical care to that child because the parent was breaking the law, and no one seriously suggests that caring for that baby gives more incentive for other pregnant women to use drugs. We recognize that the child is an innocent bystander and help as best we can, while addressing the problem of illegal drug use in other ways. We should do the same for these kids: if our goal is to reduce illegal immigration, so be it, but to do that by punishing innocent kids is simply uncivilized.

This is a specious

This is a specious comparison at best:  the child born to a drug addict did not take drugs directly; the child brought into the country illegally did come into the country illegally.

I hope that "Josh" is not the immigration lawyer who spoke during the hour-long program, as this would be his second error, at least:  that lawyer asserted that legalizing the stay of an illegal-immigrant child is nearly impossible -- a half truth.  The truth is that such legalization is difficult while the wrongdoer remains in the United States, but not so if the lawbreaker returns to his homeland and applies from there (of course, there's a waiting period, which is a major reason why the criminally minded pay many thousands of dollars to enter the United States quickly and illegally).