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Fresh From Major Organizing Success, Dream Advocates Challenge USA Today on “Illegal Students”

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Last week was a good week for advocates for undocumented youth, like those at DreamActivist.org, who are rallying support for a critical component of immigration reform called the Dream Act. Good news came out of Chicago, when the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights announced that honor student and community volunteer Rigo Padilla would be able to stay in the country he calls home. Then, “DREAM’er” Andrea Huerfano’s deportation was halted.

Tens of thousands of faxes, emails, and phone calls from advocates across the country helped pave the way to restoring justice in these young people’s lives.

Now, DREAM’ers have set their sights on a slightly different target than DHS: USA Today. Why?

According to Prerna Lal, in “Ask USA Today: What Do You Mean By “Illegal Students?” at Change.org:

The USA Today article Groups try to delay deportations of illegal studentsgets it wrong once again by calling immigrant students in the United States “illegal.” […] 

But wait, I get the “illegal immigrant” because that slur is familiar. However, WHAT is an “illegal student?”

How do you recognize an “illegal student?” […]

Sign the petition to tell Emily Bazar and USA Today that no student and no human being can be illegal.

The action has caught fire on twitter and continues to spark outrage a day later.

Erin Rosa at Campus Progress has a thorough (and snarky) response in “What’s an ‘Illegal Student,’ Anyway?”:

That’s a good question. First off, schooling for primary and secondary education is compulsorily in the United States, meaning that public schools are obligated to teach every child, undocumented or not. Even if Bazar is talking about higher education, universities and colleges are not legally bared from teaching to undocumented immigrants so long as they pay their own tuition bills. (Obtaining financial aid or in-state tuition is another story.) So, if “illegal” is being used by USA Today as an adjective to describe students in the United States, what is it about their status as scholars that would specifically make them illegal?

While it’s not uncommon for other established media outlets to use a term like “illegal immigrant,” a problematic title that assumes an individual is guilty of breaking immigration laws, it’s nearly impossible to be an “illegal student” in the United States.

What’s next? Will there be “illegal Church goers,” or “illegal Guitar Hero players?”

Imagine 2050, The Sanctuary, DreamActivist, and MAGraduate (Daily Kos) also carried the story.