Olivas’ latest book explores education for undocumented

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Michael OlivasMay 19, 2011 - Professor Michael A. Olivas examines the 30-year history of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made it possible for undocumented children to enroll in Texas public schools in his 13th book, No Undocumented Child Left Behind.

“Plyler v. Doe from 1982 is generally considered the high-water mark for immigrants’ rights in the U.S., and still has powerful resonance within the larger community,” said Olivas who holds the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair of Law. “It has all the dramatic features one would hope for in such an important case---innocent sojourner children, a vexing contest of equity and fairness, the issue of how we constitute our community, and the proper role of law.”

The court struck down both a state statute denying funding for education to undocumented children and a school district's attempt to compensate for lost state funding by charging an annual $1,000 tuition fee for each undocumented student. Olivas writes how the ruling continues to suffer from implementation issues and has required additional litigation and vigilance to enforce in the face of direct and indirect attacks. He closes with the on-going debate over the long-stalled DREAM Act which would give conditional citizenship to undocumented college students who graduated from U.S .high schools and have been in the country for at least five years.

“Plyler v. Doe has literally changed the face of public education and our nation, and retains vitality in immigration politics,” Olivas said. “It even has deep roots into higher education, as many of these children are allowed to enroll in our colleges with resident tuition. As a result, today’s face of this population is the 19-year-old undocumented DREAM Act student, achieving against all odds, hoping for a legislative solution to immigration reform. At some point, the grownups will enact such reform, and the DREAM Act students will be first in line for full participation in our system.”

No Undocumented Child Left Behind is part of the Citizenship and Migration in the Americas Series published by NYU Press.  Olivas’ 14th book, Suing Alma Mater: Higher Education and the Courts, will be published by Johns Hopkins University Press next year.

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