By Jon Krieg
Adolescence is hard enough under the best of circumstances. Peer pressure, family conflicts, acne – these and other stimuli make high school graduation a joy for most of us.
But for undocumented students, the final two years of high school can be especially bittersweet. Although the U.S. Supreme Court guarantees access to K-12 public education for all children, regardless of immigration status, education and work prospects for undocumented youth after high school are very often limited. Even getting a driver’s license is out of the question.
On an especially muggy summer night, eighty Iowans gathered at Grace United Methodist Church in Des Moines on July 14 to watch the documentary Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth (www.papersthemovie.com). Following the film, two undocumented young adults confirmed the challenges which the movie portrayed. Despite tremendous gifts and admirable work ethics, undocumented youth are denied admission to many universities and colleges; other schools charge them out-of-state or international-student tuition.
What should be obvious needs emphasis here: this example of our broken immigration system harms not only the young people involved, but our whole society, as well. What possible good can come from preventing any young person from obtaining her or his dream?
That’s the point made by the organizers of the film’s screening, which included AFSC, Catholic Charities, Justice For Our Neighbors, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Methodist Federation for Social Action and Trinity United Methodist Church. They echoed the call made in the movie for passage of comprehensive immigration reform which would create a path to citizenship for immigrants.
At the state level, people were encouraged to challenge candidates to support the Iowa Workforce and Opportunities Act (IOWA Act), which would allow all young Iowans to pay instate tuition at public universities, regardless of immigration status.
Passage of such measures would further our nation’s efforts toward true equality for all.