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Undocumented Students Face Closed Doors to some Colleges - KOAM TV 7

Undocumented Students Face Closed Doors to some Colleges

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Going to college is part of the American dream.  But for those whose parents brought them into the United States illegally, college could be off limits.
For undocumented immigrant teens there isn't complete access to education. 

That's true for 18 year old  Ervin.  He is a member of the winning Carthage HIgh School soccer team and now he's on the wrestling team. 
He now get's "A's" and "B's" and hopes to go to college. 

Ervin says, "My dream is going to a college, finish my education become a teacher and help the other kids out like me."  Other kids are those who were brought to this country illegally by their parents,  who don't speak English.

One thing stands in Ervin's way of getting to college. He's undocumented.  His parents brought him to America illegally from Guatemala when he was ten.  He lives with his Aunt.  A friend is helping him try to reach his goal of going to college. 
 Alexander says, "Out of ten doors nine tell you no, no you just can't."

Ervin says, "I think its  frustrating to me cause you wont find the best college to go."
Children of illegal immigrants attend public school from preschool through 12th grade no questions asked about status.
Conservative Hagen Vogel disagrees that even that should be happening. 
Vogel says, "It  kind of bothers me that  my family, my friends families have to pay taxes in order for an illegal alien to get that education."

School officials say early education becomes an investment of taxpayer dollars without a pay off later if students can't go to college. 
Carthage assistant principal Matt Huntley says, "What  we're doing is spending thousands of dollars educating these children only  to, um not verbally, not in words, ultimately, what we tell or subconsciously tell them  is all you can do now is break the law.  Go get fake papers somewhere and work under the table."

Undocumented students like Ervin don't have social security numbers.  That means a "no" go to Missouri State colleges and more importantly prohibits them from filling for financial aid. 

Something Vogel believes is fair. "I totally agree with that.  The main reason there's only so much money to help students get to where they want to be.  For financial aid to go to someone that's undocumented rather than someone who is a legal citizen here is not right and unconstitutional."

Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan says it's a concern no matter on  which sides of the immigration debate you sit and needs to be a solution.  Dagnan says, "You're   gonna have  people on both sides say they shouldn't be here in the first place right,  but here's the truth. The truth is they're here,
 and our community  is investing in them  and then they get to a certain age and really there's nothing  they can do to continue to become a productive citizen."

 Carthage school resource officer Augie Sanchez says, "I know a few, maybe a couple, that  end up resorting to sale of illegal drugs stuff like that as a business cause they know there's income there.  So there's the likelihood of that and the attitude why try.  Why try if I cant get anywhere else after high school, why try attendance-wise, grade-wise. 

 School officials say  the realization that there will be barriers to going to college comes as early as junior high for some undocumented students and they say it can have an impact on their attitude towards school.. 

Assistant principal Huntley says, "I've seen kids who were "a", "b" students, all of a sudden begin to be "d" and "f"  students and not  show up to school. I think its probably a very depressing day whenever um a kid who's been raised on  raised on the dreams that America has to offer  that maybe those dreams don't include him or her." 

Ervin agrees, "My attitude was give up everything in school drop out of high schooL" But that changed when an English as a second language teacher inspired him to try harder.

But Ervin and other aren't giving up.  A glimmer of hope comes from work permits through deferred action made possible through an executive order by President Obama in June of 2012. 
Mireya Vilanzuela just got hers. "It gives me a social security number, gives me a card that shows I'm able to work and to go to college.  But even though  I showed that they told me no."
A single mom, she's in the process of trying to apply to Crowder College in Webb City. Counselors to Hispanic students aren't sure work permits will work.

Rhonda Wyrsch says, "The college are telling me that no they still are not allowed to go to college."
But neither Mireya nor Ervin will give up hope. 
 Mireya says that's because, "I  want a better future for my girl and I'm gonna be their first  one in my family to go to college so I want to accomplish all my goals, to 
become an RN." 

Ervin has applied for a work permit but didn't always have a blemish free record during his early high school years. 
Ervin says "I have to try a lot of different colleges now."

Work permits through deferred action are opening some doors but not all.  Others have found private college willing to accept them. 

Twenty-two year old Cesar  Lopez follows his teachers instructions to scribble an image of a model.  He's studying at the Kansas City Art Institute.  Its his dream come true. 
"Not only mine  but the so to say the American dream being in an art school. Its always been an aspiration," says Cesar. 

Cesar now has a work permit through deferred action inn 2012 which removes fears of deportation for undocumented students but when he was an undocumented student back at Carthage high school, Cesar graduated without a clear path to college. 
"My legal status wasn't the same as it is now.  It wasn't an option.  I knew about it and   the whole time it was very difficult to see other people  uh plan their life so to say."

His mother always encouraged his education and was part of the reason why they made a dramatic journey to get to America. Cesar remembers, "The border between Guatemala and Mexico, we crossed  on this it was this raft made of an inner tube of  a tractor with two by fours on top,  tied together with cord and some guy on top with a stick who pushes you across." 


Cesar started his college career at Donnelly college in Kansas City Kansas.  A small private Catholic College who's admissions director Edward Marquez  says it's mission is all about access. 
"We're not looking at status. We're looking at what are their academic qualities and the kind of person and character they have."

Undocumented students can't file the FAFSA for federal financial aid since they don't have social security numbers. For Cesar and others its pay your own way or get institutional aid. 

Marquez says, "Yeah, it can be an  obstacle, straight out it can be an obstacle because essentially like I tell students sometimes you imagine a home with  "x" numbers of windows and some of the students can open up all the windows.  Some students  can only open one or two windows.
So you  have to be  creative in the way you help students. Our missions tends to point out  to those who  need service,  who need assistance we're willing to offer  that  kind of assistance to them. They  bring a lot to the table as Cesar did. He brought a lot with him  and there's other students like that from this area." 


 Cesar says, "I  got really good grades and I was also really involved at Donnelly. I was an ambassador that helped me get involved and proved that I deserved those scholarships.
A student who loved school and always got good grades, Cesar also had some "why try" moments.
He says, "I was taking AP classes that weren't really counting toward anything, any college. I was enjoying them.  I was good at them and it was really frustrating.  Why am I, doing this  do I have to read Canterbury Tales overnight for no real reason except my grade."
Cesar originally wanted to go to colleges closer to home.
"I think personally, was for me, the  Hispanic nature families, close knit  is engrained in some of us.  Going to Kansas City was like moving across country and  difficult at first."

Every other week he makes the three hour drive home to Carthage and back. But many say he's a role model for other students by pursuing his art degree. 

Donnelly's Marquez says, "I was ecstatic when I heard he was there. He'll do great things there  and he's changed, as they say, he's flipped the field for his whole family"

Back at Carthage high school, the assistant principal says he respects students efforts even in the face of many closed doors to college. Huntley says they work as if saying, "I'm gonna  continue to pursue the  things you've told me I could do since I was little  and to believe in the dreams you've taught me to believe in and you're gonna have to look me in the face and tell me I can't do this.    And I really appreciate  the kind of silent protest of those kids."


Counselors say they are getting positive feedback from Pittsburg state University about accepting undocumented students. But all involved with undocumented students say the work permits are a good start but the Dream Act would be the best solution.  It eventually provides "conditional" permanent residency to graduating students.  Fourteen states have adopted their own versions of the Dream Act dealing with tuition prices and financial aid including Kansas. 

Cesar Learned about Donnelly College at a college night for Hispanic students.  Carthage school counselors are planning another one for February 10th at 6:00pm at the Carthage R-9 auditorium. 






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