We ARE Americans
Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream

Edited by William Perez
Foreword by Daniel G. Solorzano
Paper: 978 1 57922 376 2 / $26.00
Published: August 2009  

Cloth: 978 1 57922 375 5 / $95.00
Published: August 2009  

Publisher: Stylus Publishing
200 pp., 6" x 9"
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?

Table of Contents:
1) Penelope: “I know for a fact my success is because of my relentless determination”;
2) Jaime: “It’s almost like I am tied down to the ground with a ball and chain because I don’t have citizenship”;
3) Jeronimo: “It’s like someone giving you a car, but not putting any gas in it”;
4) Lilia: “I want a chance to work in an office with air conditioning rather than in the fields under the hot sun”;

5) Daniella: “I’ve always had a passion for community service”;
6) Isabel: “They say you can accomplish whatever you want or set your mind to, but they don’t say that it’s just for some”;
7) Lucila: “I don’t belong here because I don’t have my papers, so it’s kind of like I’m in limbo”;
8) Paulina: “I catch the bus at 5:15 a.m., I literally sleep with my clothes on”;

9) Angelica: “I think I will do something big, I just need a chance”;
10) Sasha: “You'll never get an ‘A’ in my class because you’re a dirty Mexican”;
11) Eduardo: “I’m restricted in joining clubs, participating in school events, taking on leadership roles…it’s a bit damaging in the long-run”;
12) Raul: “I am always limited in what I can do”;

13) Lucia: “The biggest disappointment is knowing that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel”;
14) Michael: “It’s like a wound that never heals”;
15) Julieta: “Being undocumented is really depressing”;
16) Alba: “I know I want to be a high school math teacher, but I can’t”;

17) Jessica: “I wanted to be a public interest lawyer, the kind that helps the community”;
18) Julia: “I would really like to teach college students, be involved in the educational system”;
19) Ignacio: “I would probably be working as a truck driver…earning minimum wage”;
20) Nicole: “Working with the students who are the most underserved….That kind of work is very meaningful to me”

Reviews & Endorsements:
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."
- Immigrant Magazine
"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"
- Choice