Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:58 pm

Book Nook: ‘Undocumented and in College’ brings immigration issues to life


I’ve never considered how undocumented immigrants get into college.

“Undocumented and in College: Students and Institutions In A Climate of National Hostility,” edited by Terry-Ann Jones and Laura Nichols, is a book that looked to expand on the scholarly paper “Immigrant Students National Position Paper,” which was published by the Jesuit higher education system. I know it sounds dry, but the editors — who also contributed their own writing to the book ‚ bring the hot-button issue of immigration to life in this book.

If you aren’t particularly informed about immigration or are looking to write a solid paper on the topic, look no further. The first four chapters go through the theory of immigration, what role Jesuit higher education plays in the lives of immigrants (undocumented or otherwise), as well as the legal and moral issues surrounding education. These chapters, while scholarly in content and tone, are designed so anyone with at least a high school education could read them and gain a sufficient understanding of the matters being presented.   

The chapter that hit home the most with me was the chapter where undocumented students in college shared their insights. One of the students named Sandra(though the book is clear that the identity of all the students have been protected) said: “‘It was a bit scary because once you start filling out the application and the first thing they ask you is for a social security number, it’s extremely intimidating because how can you leave that part blank?’”

Out of curiosity, I put down the book and started a test application to enroll at Dixie State University to see if having a social security number was a required step. Sure enough, having a social security number was part of the required fields to fill out an application. What would I feel, sitting there and being unable to submit my application because I lack one set of numbers? 

Another student called Patricia said of friends: ‘When they found out they were undocumented, they weren’t driven, they actually got really depressed and they stopped going to school and they stopped just caring about education.’”

I can easily trace my immigrant roots on both sides of my family; my great-grandparents on my mother’s side came from Okinawa, Japan, to Hawaii looking for work and a better life than their crowded home island. My father’s family fled Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine in the late 1840s. Reading this book reminded me that not only am I of recent immigration stock but that Americans, in general, have a responsibility to our fellow immigrants.

I picked up “Undocumented and in College”, out of curiosity. I finished it feeling a new appreciation for the struggles of undocumented immigrants. While the editors close by recommending higher education institutions work for policy changes to help all students, implicit is the idea that no one should stand by and watch injustice happen. This scholarly book weaves a clear story of immigration and the current struggles of undocumented immigrants in college and is available for purchase Aug. 2 for $28.

Dixie Sun rating: 5 out of 5 suns