Chicano Students and the Courts: The Mexican American Legal Struggle for Educational Equality

By Richard R. Valencia | Go to book overview

6

Undocumented Students

On April 10, 2006, nearly two million people (mostly Latino) marched in seventy cities across the United States, protesting the restrictive immigration bills before Congress (Mangaliman, Rodriguez, & Gonzales, 2006). The current “immigration crisis” (López, 2005) reflects the historical vicissitudes of America's hostile attitudes and policies toward immigrants, especially the undocumented (Brinkley, 1993; Green, 2003; López, 2005).

Anti-immigration sentiment also characterized the 1970s, with calls to reestablish immigration exclusion (Green, 2003). The severe inflation that gripped the decade likely triggered these emotions (DeLong, 1995).1 As the scapegoating theory of prejudice would predict (Schaefer, 2002), immigration exclusionists blamed undocumented people for the ailing economy. As a case in point, in 1975 the Texas Legislature amended the Texas Education Code to expel undocumented children (overwhelmingly Mexican origin) from the public schools. Proponents asserted that these children were an economic burden and should be removed from school or made to pay tuition. This legislative action sparked a major lawsuit by Mexican-origin people that the U.S. Supreme Court finally decided in their favor and “paved the way for the establishment of new rights for undocumented children” (Wilcoxen, 1985, p. 1101). From a CRT perspective, the chronicle discussed here represents a monumental challenge to dominant ideology (exclusion of the unwanted) and an unwavering commitment to social justice.

The rest of this chapter covers (a) the catalyst for undocumented student litigation: the amendment of Texas Education Code §21.031; (b) the Tyler Independent School District's compliance with §21.031: setting the stage for little Ana Flores and her peers to fight back; (c) Hernandez v. Houston (1977) and Doe v. Plyler (1978): the initial lawsuits; (d) In re Alien Children Education Litigation: lawsuits flood the federal district courts of

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