Ignorance it turns out is not bliss after all.
For the first time, someone thought it would be a good idea to do an official count of undocumented students in higher ed. And yes, it confirms what we know more or less, there’s a lot of them, about 450,000, two percent of all students in post-secondary education, according to the The New American Economy and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, which collaborated on the survey using Census data.
More astonishing to me was the breakdown of the number by race. Of all undocumented students, 46 percent are Hispanic/Latinx. It’s the top group, but if we were truthful, wouldn’t you have put that number closer to 70-80 percent by the way society and the media think of the undocumented?
Be honest. So what’s interesting is that while nearly half the students are Hispanic/Latinx, the survey reveals a far greater diversity than most would imagine when it comes to the other half.
The report found that 10 percent were White. The White undocumented? They should be a thing. Tell Trump’s base, some of them should have applied for DACA. The rest? Asian American/Pacific Islanders are at 25 percent; Blacks are 15 percent; One percent were categorized as “Other.”
The analysis shows a pretty diverse group. Almost too diverse to allow another day were people automatically assume an undocumented student is born out of a tired allegiance to racial stereotyping. In other words, please don’t presume when one is undocumented you are dealing with a Hispanic/Latinx student. At nearly 50 percent, you might as well toss a coin. The undocumented person could be White, or Black, or Asian. The study is credible simply by not using the term “illegal alien.” The choice of language indicates an unbiased view. By shining a light on the actual numbers, the report provides some clarity when considering the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
That’s the program established by former President Obama in 2012, and then used by Trump as a political football on the immigration issue.If vitriol toward ending DACA is driven by an animus for Hispanic/Latinx people crossing the border, stop it. Open your eyes. The people who are undocumented represent a spectrum of people from all over the world. A border wall along and mass deportation to Mexico ignores most of the undocumented. Furthermore, these undocumented aren’t undesirables. They’re students. All of them trying to be better than they were. And wanting to be American.
Indeed, the undocumented students (450,000) represent 4.3 percent of the estimated 10.5 million undocumented overall. About half of them were brought here before age 12. The study also found that thirty-nine percent of the total number, came to the U.S. between the ages of 13-21. That means a vast majority of them arrived as minors with their families. They should not be penalized for their current status. Furthermore, the analysis shows a large number are bright students studying advanced degrees in science and technology. In keeping with the current administration’s desire to only accept successful immigrants and not “your tired and your poor,” the undocumented uncovered by the report are exactly the kind of people the current president wants. They are the best and the brightest undocumented. Not the murderers and rapists Trump conjures up for his base to consume.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the program before the summer. These numbers provide a real look at who the DACA recipients are. They represent the best of America’s sense of grit and motivation.
These are the ones we keep and hold dear.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. You can follow him on Twitter @emilamok.