The Dream Deferred MARCELO M. SUÁREZ-OROZCO
These policies have resulted in significant increases in
housing instability, food insecurity and a diminishing
sense of basic trust in the institutions of society—key
indicators of basic developmental wellbeing. Millions
of youth are growing up in a culture of insecurity. Such
insecurities, while heightened for children whose parents are detained, are ongoing and life-defining for children growing up in mixed-status households.
Housing insecurities are often associated with un-planned moves midway through the school year. Insecurity caused by unauthorized status and poverty
characterizes the lives of millions of children, even
though most unauthorized immigrants have jobs. According to the 2010 Supplemental Poverty Measure of
the U.S. Census, 28. 2 percent of Hispanics live in poverty, compared to 30 percent of children growing up
in unauthorized households. Furthermore, the
economic recession has
had a disproportionate
adverse effect on immigrant households.
Current policies take a
heavy toll on educational
attainment among children in mixed-status
households. Data from
the Harvard Immigration Project, which Carola Suárez-Orozco and I
co-directed from 1997 to
2002, reveal that children
who underwent protracted immigration-related separations from their parents were more likely to have declining academic performance than comparable youth.
Other data show that the school drop-out rates among
foreign-born Hispanic youth (approximately half of them
have no papers) is almost twice the rates among Hispanic youth born in the United States. Youth without papers who do manage to graduate from high school face
strictly limited options moving for ward. Every year, approximately 65,000 undocumented young people graduate from high schools without the requisite papers to
either access federal financial aid to attend college or to
legally find employment. Even young people who manage to attend and graduate from college at their own expense will not be able to legally work upon graduation.
The experience of Korean immigrant John is telling.
John’s parents brought him to the U.S. when he was a
toddler. He speaks English without an accent. After grad-
uating from a New York magnet school, he attended a pres-
tigious college, graduating with honors in engineering,
and he even pursued a second degree in business. When
his parents’ visas expired, they remained in the U.S., even-
tually making John an undocumented immigrant in the
only country he knows. Dispirited by his limbo status, he
now makes deliveries for a local restaurant instead of ad-
vancing his career in business or engineering.
Every year, 65,000
people graduate from
high schools without the
requisite papers to legally
146 Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012