- Two high school valedictorians in Texas publicly disclosed their undocumented status this spring, both in an effort to challenge stereotypes about immigration and achievement.
- Reaction has ranged from outrage to support for the students, with detractors saying their achievement exploits systems which could reward exemplary native born students, while advocates say that merit, not ethnicity, earns accolades like Texas' tuition waiver program for all public school valedictorians who attend in-state institutions.
- The student declarations were subtle replies to the rhetoric of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has advocated for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to limit entry into the U.S. and a wide-ranging deportation plan for undocumented citizens.
All campuses should be concerned with the primary issues of undocumented student admission, such as the climate for ethnic and racial tolerance among students, faculty and staff, and the cultural apprehensions undocumented students may hold about completing necessary verification forms and accessing grants designed to help defray costs.
Colleges and universities nationwide are tackling the issue of undocumented student admission with varying outcomes. Last month, Delaware State University became the nation's first historically black college to create an admission pipeline specifically aimed at recruiting children of undocumented workers.
But in Georgia, regents of the state's higher education system are being sued for its policy on prohibiting undocumented student enrollment at its top five public campuses, and requiring the same students to pay out-of-state tuition at other public campuses.
But more importantly, if politics open the door to deportation or stronger regulations on admissions, schools will have entirely new concerns about families being divided among children born in the United States and parents who may be deported, new elements of racial strife among student bodies, and challenges in public perception for how all of these topics will be addressed.