"Undocumented Immigrants and Higher Education: Si Se Puede"

This book began as a graduate school project in which I set out to chronicle events in Texas that culminated in the June 2001 passage of an in state tuition law—the first in the United States. I was a participant in efforts that led to the passage of this law and was able to work directly with the affected community of students and parents. I had the proverbial good luck to be in the right place at the right time in two school systems in Texas—the Houston and Austin Independent School Districts. There I worked for several years to implement the new legal mandate for in state tuition, which opened the door to college for the first time to all students, regardless of their immigration status.

I wrote this book to document the history of the struggle to secure immigrant students' access to higher education because I believe that an accurate understanding of this movement for equal rights is important for its advocates, for policymakers, and for others seeking to understand and document this aspect of life for the undocumented and this reality of the educational system in this country. I believe that by offering a context and an accurate presentation of the origins and implications of in-state tuition laws, readers will be provided the best basis for understanding this struggle for equal application of the law and access to higher education.

It is my hope that this book may serve to inspire others to write their own. While we are fortunate to have a growing number of articles and now dissertations on this subject, this may be the first general book on this historic change. More are necessary and undoubtedly on the way, especially since the issue is far from settled. Participant accounts by students, parents, educators, and supporters would help to document and provide greater understanding of the protagonists. An examination of in-state tuition from an educational framework in the context of many issues such as resegregation and continued attacks on the existence of public education, would be worthwhile. More in-depth analysis of the economic background to the issue, the constitutional arguments, or the situation in other countries would also be important contributions.

It is also my hope that addressing and correcting some of the seemingly limitless disinformation concerning undocumented immigrants will provide a modest contribution to counter the malignant demonization of undocumented immigrants, youth and their parents, and help to broaden support for equal access to higher education. Thus far, the number of immigrant youth in the United States who have availed themselves of in-state tuition policies remains negligible. Even without these challenges, the states do very little, if anything, to inform educators, students, or parents of this new opportunity provided by the law. Still, the students continue their struggle to gain and defend equal access to education and to regularize their immigration status. They are undaunted as their cruel condition leaves them few alternatives, and their sense of dignity demands it. The main motivation for this book is their remarkable tenacity that has proved to us that they can succeed—¡Sí se puede!

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