North Carolina made headlines this week in the national immigration debate. The state’s community colleges will no longer admit undocumented immigrants. At least until federal officials determine whether or not it is legal to do so. This reverses a decision made by the college system last year that permitted the 58 individual campuses across the state to make their own individual enrollment decisions.
For those who do not know, Working Films is based on the coast of North Carolina. I remember being inspired and moved by the stand our local community college took this past winter, admist intense anti-immigrant criticism, pledging to continue to allow undocumented students to enroll in degree programs so long as they were 18 and had graduated from high school. It seems now they have no choice but to renege.
The Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, has released a number of reports on the educational and economic challenges facing Latino youth. They have found that by the time the average immigrant reaches the age 25, due to lack of access to higher education, their earnings fall far below their native born counterparts. Undocumented students are already prohibited from advancing their education through the four year University and College system because of their “illegal” status. Associates degrees have offered an opportunity for education and training that enable immigrants a better likelihood of economic livelihood as they enter adulthood.
What’s especially saddening to me is that the decisions being made by the state and federal government which are blocking the opportunities for immigrant youth to advance are resulting from anti-immigrant public pressure. It makes me question the perspective of these people, which I know is driven by fear, fueled by slanted media coverage and conservative radio shows.
So what do we do? Part of the solution has to lie in debunking negative stereotypes. Public schools are an important place to start since they still allow immigrants and non-immigrants to participate in the learning experience together.
That’s the intent of New Faces: Latinos in North Carolina, the curriculum unit developed by Working Films to teach students about the economic and cultural contributions of Latin American citizens living in the state. The New Faces educational materials utilize film clips and lesson plans to spark learning and discussion. The curriculum’s release in more than 500 classrooms across the state has caused interest from many schools outside the state, businesses, and organizations searching for resources to bridge the cultural and economic divide. We’re now exploring how to expand the curriculum to meet the demand outside of North Carolina schools.
The fact that there is a demand leaves me hopeful that we can dispel the myths and scare tactics feeding the anti-immigrant movement and eventually we can send this issue to its grave.