From Plyler to DACA, policy guiding undocumented students' rights in a public education system and its pipeline to higher education

Laura Guzman-DuVernois, University of Texas at El Paso


This study was designed to provide a guide and understanding of policy, and/or case law pertinent to undocumented students in our school system. The presentation, a nontraditional format, comprised a historical review of case law, statutes, and other legal authority which discuss the legal rights of undocumented students in the United States’ public schools. The primary purpose of this study was to increase the reader’s understanding of policy related to the undocumented immigrant student population in our American system of education. The secondary purpose was to examine the different aspects of immigration and other policy that have impacted student access to other programs established by the law. Qualitative research methods were employed to capture the phenomenon embodied in legal authority found in policy action aimed at a marginalized student population within our school system. The Tyack and Cuban framework emphasized policy cycles that include this student population’s trials and tribulations as policies implemented often aim at curtailing their participation and access to educational benefits. Approximately 1.8 million students, under age eighteen, are classified as undocumented students (Perez, 2009). Building of a demographic context for this research study revealed a growing public school population due to a large influx of students with immigrant origins. Undocumented immigrant students enjoy the benefit of a K–12 public education, as do their citizen and legal resident counterparts. Conclusions derived from this study highlight frequent disregard and blatant refusal of existing law as well as policy talk that provokes reaction in the American public’s ethics and moral principles. Keywords: Legal authority, Plyler, undocumented students, public education

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Multicultural Education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Guzman-DuVernois, Laura, "From Plyler to DACA, policy guiding undocumented students' rights in a public education system and its pipeline to higher education" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3594343.