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We Are Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream [Paperback]

by William Perez, Daniel G. Solorzano
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 2009 1579223761 978-1579223762
Winner of the CEP Mildred Garcia Award for Exemplary Scholarship

About 2.4 million children and young adults under 24 years of age are undocumented. Brought by their parents to the US as minors—many before they had reached their teens—they account for about one-sixth of the total undocumented population. Illegal through no fault of their own, some 65,000 undocumented students graduate from the nation's high schools each year. They cannot get a legal job, and face enormous barriers trying to enter college to better themselves—and yet America is the only country they know and, for many, English is the only language they speak.

What future do they have? Why are we not capitalizing, as a nation, on this pool of talent that has so much to contribute? What should we be doing?

Through the inspiring stories of 16 students—from seniors in high school to graduate students—William Perez gives voice to the estimated 2.4 million undocumented students in the United States, and draws attention to their plight. These stories reveal how—despite financial hardship, the unpredictability of living with the daily threat of deportation, restrictions of all sorts, and often in the face of discrimination by their teachers—so many are not just persisting in the American educational system, but achieving academically, and moreover often participating in service to their local communities. Perez reveals what drives these young people, and the visions they have for contributing to the country they call home.

Through these stories, this book draws attention to these students’ predicament, to stimulate the debate about putting right a wrong not of their making, and to motivate more people to call for legislation, like the stalled Dream Act, that would offer undocumented students who participate in the economy and civil life a path to citizenship.

Perez goes beyond this to discuss the social and policy issues of immigration reform. He dispels myths about illegal immigrants’ supposed drain on state and federal resources, providing authoritative evidence to the contrary. He cogently makes the case—on economic, social, and constitutional and moral grounds—for more flexible policies towards undocumented immigrants. If today’s immigrants, like those of past generations, are a positive force for our society, how much truer is that where undocumented students are concerned?

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We Are Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream + No Place for Children: Voices from Juvenile Detention
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Perez, a developmental psychologist and professor in Southern California, plumbs the stories of students living with the constant threat of deportation for an answer to the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" Raised in this country by parents who gained access illegally, the 16 high school, college and post-graduate students profiled here (standing in for 65,000 nationwide) have each embraced our language, culture and collective dream, but are denied pathways to success. Perez, who has worked at a variety of research institutions, including the RAND Corporation and the Standford Institute for Higher Education Research, makes a compelling argument for changing legislation on many fronts, including bottom line economics. Vitally, he argues, undocumented students are prevented from giving back to the communities that have raised them, thus limiting the country itself. No matter what one's position is on legalizing immigrants, this collection of inspiring, heartbreaking stories puts a number of unforgettable faces to the issue, making it impossible to defend any one side in easy terms or generalities. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

We Are Americans is a great and easy read which makes for a great contribution to the
already existing conversation of humane and comprehensive immigration for all. Hopefully we steer this into a more humanitarian approach and less of a political punch line for points."

"This is a short introduction to undocumented students in the US. Perez records case histories from interviews with undocumented students, who continue to live a precarious future in a country that does not welcome them. These honest, heartrending biographical stories are the bulk of the book. Perez includes questions for discussion to facilitate group study and a brief three-page index. The introduction is informative and provides background on how these students come to live in the US without citizenship; changing demographics, including economic contributions of undocumented immigrants; use of public services; and crime statistics. Perez traces teh laws that have affected these students, from Plyer v Doe (1982) in Texas to the present. He includes statistics, e.g., "in California about 25,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools each year, yet fewer than 7,000 enroll in community colleges" and fewer still in the state university systems. He briefly gives information about statewide higher education access, in-state tuition legislation, and the DREAM Act that would extend conditional legal status to undocumented youth who meet several criteria. Perez concludes his introduction with rationales fro an immigration policy that is in the national self-interest. Summing Up: Recommended"

"After reading We ARE Americans, I realized that keeping a young Latino group in a second-class citizen status may be the new manifest destiny. Hispanics living in the shadows ensure a population at the ready; ready to mow lawns, wash windows and work in resaurant kitchens. Perez stresses that passage of the DREAM Act would grant undocumented students equal access to scholarships and other forms of financial aid. Indefense of those brought here by their parents, he says, "It's time to do the right thing."

"This book should encourage us to pass new legislation, like the DREAM Act, that would help not just these young people, but our entire nation."

"In-depth description and numerous quotes from Perez's interviews make this book a useful resource for students and scholars of immigration and education, as well as fr general readers looking for first-person stories of immigration."

"This fascinating look at the next generation of undocumented immigrants unpacks the complexities of the debate and puts unforgettable human faces to its subjects. Perez, a developmental psychologist and professor in Southern California, plumbs the stories of students living with the constant threat of deportation for an answer to the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” Raised in this country by parents who gained access illegally, the 16 high school, college and post-graduate students profiled here (standing in for 65,000 nationwide) have each embraced our language, culture and collective dream, but are denied pathways to success. Perez, who has worked at a variety of research institutions, including the RAND Corporation and the Standford Institute for Higher Education Research, makes a compelling argument for changing legislation on many fronts, including bottom line economics. Vitally, he argues, undocumented students are prevented from giving back to the communities that have raised them, thus limiting the country itself. No matter what one's position is on legalizing immigrants, this collection of inspiring, heartbreaking stories puts a number of unforgettable faces to the issue, making it impossible to defend any one side in easy terms or generalities. (Aug.)"

“In the process of describing the lives of undocumented students in the United States who aspire to live the American dream of working hard and going to college, Perez makes the powerful case that our current caste system for persons living without legal status undermines core egalitarian American ideals and violates the essence of our constitution which brings all persons under its mantle."

"We ARE Americans begins by placing undocumented people at the center of the story and in a much-needed historical and contemporary context. Professor Perez provides the evidence to challenge the notion that undocumented people are drain on social services and makes the argument that they have contributed, and continue to contribute, significantly to our nation’s economic and social well-being. Starting with Penelope, a highly motivated and tenacious high school senior and ending with Nicole, a newly minted Ph.D., Professor Perez has crafted 20 compelling portraits of resilience and survival in a social and educational world that continuously places barriers in the path of these gifted and talented scholars."

"Professor Perez paints a portrait of undocumented students that is as inspiring as it is tragic. We ARE Americans emphasizes the need to rethink current immigration policies to be more inclusive and welcome immigrants as equal citizens who contribute to making America great.”

“The stories of the undocumented students in this book represent the talented members of society that could potentially be lost if we don’t act soon; and force us to rethink our current immigration policies to be more inclusive and welcoming.”

“The voices we hear through the pages of William Perez’s book are powerful and compelling; student voices that need to be at the center of our discussions on immigration and, more specifically, on the DREAM Act. We ARE Americans reinforces that education is the surest route to empowerment, and the need for all of us to be working together to ensure that students with so much talent and determination are given the opportunity to contribute fully to this country.”

Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Stylus Publishing (August 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579223761
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579223762
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Perez is a Professor of Education at Claremont Graduate University. His research focuses on immigration and education. He is one of the nation's leading experts on undocumented students. His book, "We ARE Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream," received the 2009 Mildred Garcia Prize for Excellence in Research by the Association for the Study of Higher Education. He has been interviewed or quoted as an academic expert in various media outlets including NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Despierta America, CNN en Español, the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, La Opinion, Hispanic Magazine, Colorlines, and NPR's All Things Considered and Latino USA. Born in El Salvador, he immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 10 to escape the country's civil war. He earned his BA at Pomona College, and his Ph.D. at Stanford University. In 2010, he received the Stanford University Distinguished Scholar Alumni Award. Most recently, Alma Magazine named him as one of four Lo Mejor de Nosotros (One of Our Best) in its 50th Anniversary Hispanic Heritage Month Edition.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Are we Americans? January 2, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to be more fully informed about those individuals who come across the southern border to the United States from Mexico to live among us in order to better themselves. This book will flesh out some of the human drama involved in such lives. Many children have grown up here in our school systems only to find themselves stuck in inexpressible ways from advancing and contributing further to our society. Any person with a conscience and any degree of compassion ought to know the stories.

I personally conceptualized and started writing a story about a fourteen-year-old boy who had been born a few hundred yards on the Mexican side of the US-Mexican border as his parents escaped the hellhole they had lived in by crossing the border into the United States. In my mind, I imagined that his parents' families --- essentially his grandparents --- had been mixed up in the lower echelon of the drug cartels in Mexico. What I wanted to convey was that the family wanted to escape from the dire circumstances of their lives in Mexico.

Therefore, I decided to read We ARE Americans, Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream by William Perez.

Perez interviewed twenty undocumented students who live in the United States and have done so for a good chunk of their lives. Almost all of them are still undocumented aliens living in the United States without legal justification for being here under US law. Twenty is such a small sampling of the 2.4 million children and young adults under the age of twenty-four who the forward indicates now live in the United States undocumented.

Four of the kids interviewed were still in high school.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent May 1, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent view into the heterogeneous lives of many undocumented students. It also provides a concise overview of immigration issues and legislation.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rousing and convincing April 29, 2010
Format:Paperback
Rousing and convincing call to action on behalf of undocumented students who struggle to obtain access to higher education.
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