The education of immigrant children has been at stake and scrutinized throughout the legal history of the United States. In 1982, the Supreme Court decided that states could not deny children their right to a free public education due to their immigration status through the landmark Plyler v. Doe case. In 1994, California attempted to pass similar legislation and was successful. The stated purpose of Proposition 187 made it so that immigrants currently in the state without legal status affording them permission to do so would make them ineligible for public benefits, including education at elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. A deep sense of nativism and the disregard towards the humanity of immigrants has contributed to their being deprived of basic, humane treatment.
Most recently, the youngest and perhaps the most vulnerable immigrants are the target of racist and demeaning policies. The thousands of young, often unaccompanied, minors being held at the US-Mexico border have lost the funding that provides them with English classes, soccer, and the necessary legal aid in order to support their immigration cases. After the thousand mile long journey to arrive at the border, these activities are often a positive experience for this group of children, who without this funding, would have very little support and resources afforded to them. A Washington Post article on the matter explained that the “Office of Refugee Resettlement has begun discontinuing the funding for activities.” The piece went on to quote the Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Mark Weber’s reasoning for the changes in funding. He added that the “activities — including soccer — that have been deemed ‘not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation.’”
When an unaccompanied minor is detained at the border, it can go without saying that the child is filled with fear, torment, and anxiety. For many of them, being around other youth in the programs that were available to them helped make immigration detention more bearable. The United States is facing an immigration crisis, and while we wait for policy to be pushed through that demands humane treatment, we need to do more to protect the most vulnerable immigrant youth population.
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