Book by William Perez
Review by Susan L. Krouse
Raj Soin College of Business
Wright State University, Dayton OH
“It’s like someone giving you a car, but not putting any gas in it.” Jeronimo is a high school student who came to America with his parents when he was a year old. He speaks of the inability to receive financial aid because he does not have “papers.” Jeronimo is 17th in his class with a 4.02 and is involved in soccer, band, and golf. He wanted to join ROTC, participate in a study abroad program, and find a job that pays more than minimum wage. He does not have legal status, i.e. a Social Security card, but is still making plans to attend community college.
William Perez writes of the educational journeys in We ARE Americans, a qualitative study documenting undocumented students. These are the children of illegal immigrants to this country. They speak English and know no other culture than American. These are the stories of 16 individuals who are among the 65,000 undocumented students in this country who cannot get a driver’s license, legal employment, federal aid or in-state tuition. The four parts of the book deal with high school, community college, university, and formerly undocumented students. The book talks about these students' futures; how they deal with discrimination, fear of deportation, language barriers, financial concerns, and highlights their determination and optimism even when overwhelmed.
Perez addresses the perceptions, dispels many of the ideas that immigrants are a burden on our economy, and stresses the American values of achievement – many of these students have had to overcome abject poverty and other obstacles to become star pupils. They are valuable resources and should be treated as such – the author states that they can become productive members of society and without legalization lock into a lower socioeconomic class, which will continue to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
The book discusses the Immigration and Reform Act of 1986, and bills passed in California and Texas to provide in-state tuition. The important issue is that federal legislation is necessary to legalize their status while many lawmakers are reluctant because they believe the argument that immigrants will displace natives in institutions of higher education. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream Act), initially introduced in 2001, is now stalled in congress.
Many of the students interviewed mentioned a teacher or a counselor that made the difference in their decision to pursue a college education, even under the hardest of circumstances. These counselors were instrumental in giving them resources about jobs, ways to apply for scholarships, and colleges that would admit them. They encouraged them to work hard and to pursue their dreams.
This work provides a valuable look at the undocumented student population for college advisors, especially those in our community colleges. The book is an excellent resource, as it led me to an increased awareness of how we can recognize these students, as they do tend to cover their status. It is helpful in understanding their special needs and breaking down the stereotypes to which we are exposed. It provides resources for legislation, statistics on immigration, and ways advisors can advocate for them. I would definitely add it to my library as a basis for knowing which questions to ask in fully serving these students.
Connolly, K.A. (2005). In search of the American dream: An examination of undocumented students, in-state tuition, and the Dream Act. The Catholic University Law Review, 55, 193-225.
Strayhorn, C.K., (2006) Special report: Undocumented students in Texas: A financial analysis of the impact to the state budget and economy. Austin, TX: Office of the Texas State Comptroller.
We ARE Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream (2009) Book by William Perez. Review by Susan L. Krouse. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC. 161 pp. $22.50. ISBN # 978-1-57922-376-2