Reflections on Educating Latino and Latina Undocumented Children: Beyond Plyler v. Doe

34 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2008

See all articles by Maria Pabon Lopez

Maria Pabon Lopez

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Date Written: August 6, 2008


Although Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 United States Supreme Court opinion guarantees undocumented children the right to a free public education, the fact is that more than 20 years later, we have not seen substantial improvement in their educational achievement. Thus, in this article I examine the Plyler opinion and uncover the shortcomings in its drafting and legal analysis which have weakened its force as precedent and made it so that Latino and undocumented students face unequal educational opportunity despite the promise of Plyler. The article further surveys the obstacles that undocumented students face in their quest to move beyond primary education into higher education as well as pending federal proposals, such as the DREAM Act, which aim to allow undocumented students access to higher education. I conclude in the article by stating that despite the best efforts made in the litigation and policy arena, unless immigration reform passes such that the undocumented students, who are in the words of the Justice Brennan, "here through no fault of their own..," can regularize their immigration status, our educational system will only be producing educated farmworkers, whose careers are limited by their immigration status.

Keywords: Latina, Latino, public education, undocumented children, immigrants, Immigration Law, Plyler v. Doe, undocumented students, DREAM Act, immigration status, Justice Brennan

JEL Classification: K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Lopez, Maria Pabon, Reflections on Educating Latino and Latina Undocumented Children: Beyond Plyler v. Doe (August 6, 2008). Seton Hall Law Review, Vol. 35, No. 4, 2005, Available at SSRN:

Maria Pabon Lopez (Contact Author)

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law ( email )

7214 St Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

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