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Mobility and Invisibility on the Margins: The Social and Educational Challenges Faced by Undocumented K-12 Students in New York State

Herrera, Kathryn

This essay seeks to assess the educational disparities undocumented students in K-12 education in New York State face, the root causes of these disparities, and the effectiveness of New York policy in mitigating these achievement gaps. I argue that New York’s policies have a more rhetorical than substantive impact due to the ineffective implementation and funding of 1) bilingual language programs, 2) social benefits and programs to temper the effects of poverty on educational attainment, 3) health services for undocumented immigrants, and 4) accessible and linguistically appropriate mental health counseling for those suffering from trauma. Policies and programs only provide benefits to undocumented immigrant youth when schools and institutions are adequately funded, provide well-resourced bilingual language programs, improved access to routine mental health care, state or federal protections from deportation, and broader policies that allay the effects of low socioeconomic status on in-school readiness. The current sociopolitical system in New York State does not meet the needs of the students nor of the society at large, which should aim integrate youth, cultivate their cultural capital, and provide meaningful opportunities to develop into their full human potential. When the state and society fail to integrate immigrants undocumented and provide them with equitable opportunities for personal and economic achievement, disastrous consequences can occur as result. Without legitimate pathways toward upward social mobility, undocumented immigrants youth are at risk of entering into exploitative informal markets and criminal networks, internalizing their marginalization, or turning to violence. Given the continuous waves of immigration, the rootedness of current undocumented populations, and the fundamental human right to equitable educational opportunities, these issues need to be prioritized by policymakers and school administrators.

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Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Martin, J. Paul
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
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