Legislation & Lobbying

Immigration Worries for Florida Students

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As a star student and popular football player, Juan Gomez got a lot of attention over his recent arrest as an illegal immigrant shortly after his high school graduation. But many other Miami students—exactly how many, no one knows—are facing the same problem, too.

More than 20 percent of the 342,000 students in Miami-Dade, and 15 percent of those in nearby Broward County are foreign-born. However, “it is impossible to tell who is here legally and who isn’t,” reports the Miami Herald. Under state law, all children get a free public education, and the state’s school districts are forbidden to ask about or keep records of a child’s immigration status.

”We don’t know who they are and we don’t track who they are,” says Associate Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “From a legal and ethical perspective, every child has a right to access education.” Once students have graduated, however, not all colleges will accept illegal immigrants.

Gomez, 18, is now out of detention, and expects to begin a college honors program this month, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post. He is still scheduled to be deported to his native Colombia, however, where he has not been since he was a toddler.

Others also face an uncertain future. ”I kept it very undercover,” says Thomas, now 18, who came to this country from Peru as a 3-year-old. His family has applied for asylum without success. “Though I’m sure they wonder why I’m not going to the university I was accepted to,” he says of his friends and teachers.

Such situations are prompting Congress to reconsider the proposed DREAM Act, reports the Herald. It would grant U.S. permanent residency to students who complete two years of college or military service.

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