Conflict & Justice

Arizona's immigration crackdown - the impact on children

This past January, Bob Jones paid a visit to one of his schools, he's the superintendent on a district in Phoenix with responsibility for 35,000 children. The school is in a mainly Hispanic area. He says the principal told him they were missing 500 kids and it turned out the police had done a sweep the week before of the whole neighborhood looking for illegals in that area. So the parents were panicked. It turned out kids were missing from other schools too. The superintendent called parents and reassured them and slowly some kids started coming back. here's where one illegal family still lives: in a body shop behind an industrial zone in a dark apartment. This couple has lived in Phoenix ever since they snuck across the border 15 years ago. The man runs the body shop. A couple of months ago the Sheriff came through the neighborhood and since then he says he's been extra careful and only goes out for groceries. Their hope is focused on their children now and in particular on their son who just graduated from high school. He was born in Mexico and emigrated when he was 2, so he's technically illegal. A few months ago he learned he was ineligible for in-state college tuition and he says he had big plans for college: getting a business degree and as the top student in his class, he had every chance for succeeding. His parents said it's just a speed bump. This lead to some soul searching: should they have ever left Mexico? Was it fair to their son who now has to deal with the consequences? The son says only after learning about his parents' life in Mexico did he realize they made the right move. This woman asks, why should my children be responsible for my decision to immigrate illegally? The woman is the son's godmother and also the principal at the boy's school, a charter school where high schoolers can take college classes. But the boy and 37 other undocumented students can only take those classes if they paid out of state tuitions, which none of them can afford. She says this has caused divisions between legals and illegals in the community and it's reminiscent of the Protestant vs. Catholic division. She didn't want separation at her school and she started raising money privately for her students. But the cost per student over four years is over $9,000. Undocumented students are attending classes at the school in record numbers. In her five years at the school, she's turned around the school. When she arrived the drop out rate was 50%, now it's 4%. She says the reason for that is because the predominantly Hispanic student population shows up every day. This senior reads out a letter she's written to a school benefactor. What's next for the students is anyone's guess. Some talk about a forced return to Mexico, some talk about moving to California where attitudes towards immigrants is less hostile, and some say they'll stick it out in Arizona.

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