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Identity, Social Activism, and the Pursuit of Higher Education

The Journey Stories of Undocumented and Unafraid Community Activists


Susana M. Muñoz

The topic of immigration has become increasingly volatile in U.S. society, and undocumented college students play a central role in mobilizing and politicizing a critical mass of activists to push forth a pro-immigration agenda, in particular the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The DREAM Act is the only federal legislation that would grant conditional citizenship and some financial aid assistance to undocumented students who have completed two years of college or enlist in military service. Since the DREAM Act failed to pass, undocumented students have moved from peaceful marches to acts of civil disobedience, seeking to disrupt the public discourse that positions undocumented students as living in the shadows of our system. Undocumented college students have created public forums in which they «come out» from these invisible images and pronounce themselves as «undocumented and unafraid».
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Foreword, Stella M. Flores





In January 2015, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) released its list of top ten higher education state policy issues for the year (AASCU, 2015). The issue of undocumented student college access—the provision and retraction of in-state resident tuition policies, or state DREAM Acts—ranked fifth on that list. Currently, 18 states and multiple private institutions now offer in-state tuition resident policies while 6 states actively prohibit either the tuition break or ban enrollment for undocumented students at public colleges and universities. While the progress for educational equity has been slow, the mere recognition of the educational trajectories of undocumented students represents a remarkable sign of public notice on this issue as it has now penetrated the most critical policy venues for higher education in the United States. President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the most recent Executive Action proposals have provided a national spotlight for the state DREAM Act ← ix | x → policies at a level not previously seen by the current generation. The central question for these state and federal policy initiatives is whether these opportunities will be sustained and how these policy changes in legal status affect students and their families.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 1.75 million unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, meet the DACA specific criteria allowing them to be eligible for deportation relief under this initiative (Batalova & Mittelstadt, 2012). Approximately...

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