The American ethic that hard work and gumption are keys to success is one not lost on public education students. Stay in school, go to college, find a good job – all themes that educators press in school. But imagine that you do all that only to find that the rules actually don’t apply to you. That’s the plight of thousands of high school graduates every year.
By law, the public education system cannot turn away students based on immigration status. A free public education is available to all in this country. And children who were brought here by their immigrant parents often thrive in this system. But what happens after they leave high school? The best and brightest have no problem getting accepted into top universities. But that’s where their immigration status gets tricky.
Only a handful of states have passed legislation allowing undocumented children who graduate from public high schools to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates, some with student financial aid. For those lucky few, the opportunities end there. They cannot enter the U.S. job market legally, despite diplomas and degrees. The vast majority of undocumented students, however, have no access to student aid and must pay international student tuition rates. This has led to calls for supporting federal legislation commonly known as the DREAM Act. But despite public support for it, the legislation has become mired in national immigration politics.
Produced by The Futuro Media Group and Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister of Long Haul Productions, the feature titled American Dreamer tells the story of an undocumented student trying to get a college education. A few weeks before graduation, Dan and Elizabeth met Sam, a highly Americanized high school kid who plays saxophone. Same never really worried about politics and immigration status, until now. This is his story.
Sam recently traveled to New York to participate in a panel about the DREAM ACT. The event was hosted by The College Board. Because of his undocumented status, Sam could not get on an airplane and had to be driven. Here’s his audio postcard of that trip.
American Dreamer: Sam’s Story is the winner of the 2010 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Audio Documentary, and the Radio Impact Award in the 2010 Third Coast International Audio Festival.