Moving America Forward

This Could Be the Most Passionate Plea Ever for Why We Can’t Turn Our Backs on Undocumented Students

March 18, 2014
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This Could Be the Most Passionate Plea Ever for Why We Can’t Turn Our Backs on Undocumented Students
English teacher Clint Smith shares his student Maira's story. YouTube
America can't afford to punish talented students like Maira.

No matter how well they do in school or how much they give back to their community, some kids in this country will never have the educational advantage afforded to millions of other children. Why? Because they are not considered citizens.

Because of their undocumented status — and because lawmakers can’t come to a consensus on immigration reform or the DreamAct — star pupils like Maira will never have a straightforward path to college.

As Clint Smith, a poet and English teacher at Parkdale High School in Prince George’s County, Md., explains in his beautiful poem uploaded onto YouTube, his student Maira, who has a 4.0 GPA, came to America from Mexico when she was 5 and is more American than a slice of apple pie.

MORE: How This 18-Year-Old Immigrant Became a Voice for Her Community

“We tell her that a 4.0 isn’t good enough,” he says. “We tell Maira that college wasn’t meant for girls like her. We say, ‘Too much brown skin.’ We say, ‘Too much accent.’ We say, ‘Where’d you come from?’ We say, ‘You don’t have a number so you don’t exist.'”

He continues, “It’s hard to convince someone to do well in school when the law tells them that it won’t matter.”

According to a 2013 study from the Pew Research Center, Americans overwhelmingly agree that there should be immigration reform of some kind, but there’s no agreement on how it should be done. The study, however, does find that the country’s overall attitude about immigrants has become more positive than negative. Forty-nine percent agreed with the statement “immigrants today strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents.” Additionally, the poll found that three-quarters of Americans believe that legal status for undocumented immigrants would help the economy — far more than those who say it would hurt it.

ALSO: Tired of Waiting for Immigration Reform, One Man Is Giving Undocumented Students a Shot at the American Dream

In the meantime, students like Maira just want to go to college, and America can’t afford to wait. A better-educated workforce would benefit the whole country, and it’s devastating when students like her are denied this chance.

As Upworthy recommends, if you want to learn more about undocumented immigrants and why we should help them gain a path to citizenship, check out this link here.

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