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No Undocumented Child Left Behind

Plyler v. Doe and the Education of Undocumented Schoolchildren

Michael Olivas

Publication Year: 2012

The 1982 U. S. Supreme Court case of Plyler v. Doe, which made it possible for undocumented children to enroll in Texas public schools, was a watershed moment for immigrant rights in the United States. The Court struck down both a state statute denying funding for education to undocumented children and a municipal school district's attempt to charge an annual $1,000 tuition fee for each undocumented student to compensate for the lost state funding. Yet while this case has not returned to the Supreme Court, it is frequently contested at the state and local level.

In No Undocumented Child Left Behind, Michael A. Olivas tells a fascinating history of the landmark case, examining how, 30 years later, Plyler v. Doe continues to suffer from implementation issues and requires additional litigation and vigilance to enforce the ruling. He takes a comprehensive look at the legal regime it established regarding the education of undocumented school children, moves up through its implementation, including direct and indirect attacks on it, and closes with the ongoing, highly charged debates over the Development, Relief, and Education for Minors (DREAM) Act, which aims to give conditional citizenship to undocumented college students who graduated from US high schools and have been in the country for at least five years. 

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xiii

As with so many things in life, book writing is a collaborative art. It is also among the most frightening enterprises a person can undertake, both because it is sheer hard work and because it is so revealing a project. Having read many books over the years, I can tell when an author is surefooted, nuanced, and confident...

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1. Why Plyler Matters

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pp. 1-5

In the spring of 2008, I watched with fascination as the Republican candidates for their party’s presidential nomination argued over immigration policy, especially a topic that I had been involved in for many years— whether the undocumented should be allowed to attend college and receive resident tuition...

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2. The Story of Plyler v. Doe: The Education of Undocumented Children and the Polity

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pp. 7-33

It is hard to know how Supreme Court decisions will come to be regarded, but one thing is certain: none of them exists in a vacuum. Getting a case to federal or state court in the first place is a lightning strike, and very few make it all the way through the chute to the Supreme Court. Fewer...

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3. The Implementation of Plyler v. Doe

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pp. 35-61

It did not seem like a golden age at the time for me, for my clients, and for the undocumented community, but it surely was. In fact, if I were pressed, I would identify 1982’s Plyler v. Doe as the true high-water mark of immigrant rights in the United States. Today, it is clear that the polity is more concerned with...

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4. The Political Economy of the DREAM Act and the Legislative Process: Doe Goes to College

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pp. 63-86

Many developments have kept the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and the issue of undocumented college students in the news and on federal and state legislative agendas. Who would have thought that presidential candidates would be debating the issue, as...

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5. Conclusion: The Discourse and the Danger (or, Why Plyler Should Have Been Decided on Preemption Grounds)

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pp. 87-103

I have been actively involved in residency reform and study since 1975, when I was a doctoral student and campus recruiter at Ohio State University. As a Chicano student, I was drawn to recruit other Latinos to campus, but in Ohio, the only communities with residents of Mexican...


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pp. 105-158


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pp. 159-188


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pp. 189-192

About the Author

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pp. 193

E-ISBN-13: 9780814762455
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814762448
Print-ISBN-10: 0814762441

Publication Year: 2012