DACA: Undocumented Youth in America

By: Ariel Blanco

Alejandra was born in Mexico and was brought to the United States at the age of 5. As a high school student, she maintained a high GPA and scored exceptionally high on the SATs. Because she is undocumented, however, she could not access state or federal financial aid to offset the costs of higher education. Because her family could not afford tuition, Alejandra went to school full-time and worked full-time to pay for her studies and provide for her family. She graduated and went on to earn her Master’s degree in applied mathematics. Despite her accomplishments, no current viable path to U.S. citizenship or permanent residency exists for Alejandra and others similarly situated, and deportation to a country in which they have never lived, nor speak the native language in many cases, is always a possibility and cause for daily uncertainty.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was introduced on June 15, 2012, by the Obama administration under executive order. The program sought to defer immigration enforcement action against childhood arrivals who lived in the U.S. undocumented and met specific eligibility requirements. Contrary to popular belief, DACA did not grant undocumented immigrants a legal status, issue a green card, or provide a path to citizenship. It simply sought to prevent qualifying individuals from being apprehended, placed into removal proceedings, or deported.

Among the requirements to qualify for DACA were proof of arrival to the U.S. before the age of 16 and under the age of 31 before June 15, 2012, current enrollment in school or receipt of a high school diploma or GED, and no convictions for felony or misdemeanor offenses. It is estimated that 1.8 million undocumented youths and young adults were eligible for DACA. The deferrals were granted for two-year periods and could be renewed for additional two-year periods.

Before DACA, undocumented youths like Alejandra lived in the shadows of society with no identity. Many were born in Mexico and other Central American countries but were brought to the United States as children. Because they are brought at such a young age, many speak only English. They grow up in the US, go to school in the US, work in the US and take part in traditional American activities just like their US born counterparts. The only difference is they do so illegally, with no fault of their own, but because of their parents’ actions when they were kids. Although DACA did not ultimately resolve the problem of undocumented childhood arrivals, it did provide these vulnerable youths with temporary protection until meaningful immigration legislation could be passed.

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration rescinded DACA, referring to the executive policy as an unconstitutional exercise of presidential authority. President Trump, however, gave Congress six months to create immigration legislation before DACA recipients started losing their protected status. Negotiators have indicated that any immigration bill would need to address four pillars: a plan to protect DACA recipients, funding for the border wall, the end of the diversity visa lottery, and a reduction in family-based migration. At this point, Congress has failed to pass legislation. Republicans cite that Democratic proposals protect too many DACA recipients, and Democrats cite that Republican proposals seek excessive funding for a border wall. The DACA extension officially expires on March 5. If Congress fails to introduce a bill, DACA recipients will return to the uncertain, unpredictable status they held before DACA, where they could arbitrarily be apprehended or deported from the US. For DACA recipients, America is the only home they know.

For more information please see:

U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services–Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)— 2018

National Immigration Law Center–Stories in Defense of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals–2018

USA Today–What is President Trump’s Policy on Dreamers? It Keeps Changing— 7 February 2018

NPR–Trump Ends DACA, Calls on Congress to Act–5 September 2017

American Bar Association–Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals–September 2013



Online Terrorist Radicalization of Western Youth

By: Loren Reichsfeld

In 2017, Justin N Sullivan was sentenced to life in prison for planning an Islamic State-inspired attack in North Carolina more sinister than the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting after he was radicalized online. Unfortunately, Sullivan is not the only American teen to fall into the trap of being radicalized online by Islamist extremist groups like ISIS. In 2014, the same year Sullivan was first introduced to radicalization material, the Central Intelligence Agency estimated two thousand westerners had been recruited to join ISIS with at least one hundred being Americans. Many of these Westerners were teens, still in their youth who were targeted by various tactics.

One of the primary recruitment tactics used to recruit teens is by appealing to the teens through offering them a sense of purpose or identity. The radicals provide the recruitment targets a sense of identity and meaning by filling their heads with ideas of joining the group to help them better the lives of their brethren in the Middle East or by fighting the oppression of their people. Another tactic is to make it a religious pride issue by telling young Western Muslims that it is their duty to fight with them. Others are fed stories that give them hope. Regardless of the stories or information given to those being radicalized, there are two main ways this information is given to them.

Radicalization is most commonly done through online propaganda or face-to-face recruitment. Online and mobile social media platforms like Twitter and WhatsApp allow extremists to preach their ideologies as well as to communicate with potential recruits. One of the more interesting turns of events to occur within recruitment is the increased targeting of young women. As of May 2017, it is estimated that at least six hundred women had joined the ISIS caliphate as so-called “lionesses of Allah” to become jihadist wives, bear “cubs of the caliphate,” recruit other women and to take part in many different roles within ISIS. One of the emerging roles these young women are taking part of is fighting and signing up for suicide missions. The increase in suicide-bomber trained women could be particularly dangerous should these women come back to Westernized countries because women are often seen as less dangerous or suspicious. An important note on the subject of women being used as suicide bombers or combatants is that not all of the teenage girls being targeted for recruitment are Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent. Many of them have converted to radicalized Islam to serve the Islamists’ purposes.

Even with ISIS’s power being quelled in the Middle East, there is fear that many of these radicalized Westerners that were recruited in their youth may come back to their countries of origin (like the United States) to continue the spread or act upon the radicalized ideas now engrained in them. Thankfully there are options for dealing with those that have already been radicalized or are on the path to being radicalized. One of those options is of course prison, but one newer idea is “jihadi rehab.” Since many of those being recruited are in their teens, they are often not recruited based on ideology but, as earlier mentioned, based on a sense of duty or because they think they found their sense of identity within the radicalized groups. It may be possible to rehabilitate them into seeing the world through non-radicalized views and reintegrate them back into society as opposed to stripping them of their lives by placing them in prison. Research has also shown that traditional anti-radicalization methods may not be as effective as having reformed combatants and respected community leaders speak out against the radicalized ideas. If this continues to be true then “jihadi rehabs” may not only be beneficial to those that have been radicalized but also to those that could become radicalized.

Exposure to radical ideas is just one the many challenges today’s youth face, so it is important to recognize the possible risks and take proactive preventive measures. By knowing how teens are recruited by groups, it creates an awareness that could help decrease teen susceptibility. Awareness is often the first line of defense, so raising awareness could be one of many steps taken to help face this threat. As awareness of online radicalization of youth grows, it will be interesting to see how the government and community leaders respond to it and how they choose to handle those that have already been radicalized.

For more information please see:

NPR- Jihadi Rehab may be an Alternative to Prison for Young ISIS Recruits–28 November 2017

CBC News- Imam Warns Youth that Islamic State is ‘Still Recruiting’– 15 October 2017

The Washington Post- Youth radicalization is on the rise. Here’s what we know about why. –28 August 2017

CBS News- North Carolina Man Gets Life in Prison for Plotting ISIS-inspired shooting– 27 June 2017

New York Post- Meet the American Women Who are Flocking to join ISIS– 13 May 2017

CS Monitor- ISIS Excels at Recruiting American Teens: Here are Four Reasons Why– 22 October 2014



Minors and Medical Consent Laws

By: Alexandra McConaughey

Medical consent laws are changing in the modern era, and the case of minors is especially thorny. In most areas of law, a minor does not have a legal right to consent and is under the control of a parent or guardian. Medical consent laws, however, have diverged from general consent laws because of different public health goals and legal policies.

Medical consent laws exist to protect a person’s liberty and bodily autonomy. The right to do with yourself as you wish is a fundamental value in American law. It also serves important public health goals, which are especially clear in cases where teenagers are granted this right. Allowing personal consent, rather than consent of a family member or a panel, gives people (including teens) the ability to access sensitive care without their decisions being judged or reversed. This raises rates of treatment for sexually transmitted illnesses, increases safe maternity care, and allows for treatment of mental illnesses. On the other hand, protecting people from nonconsensual treatment increases trust in the medical system and makes it more likely that a person will seek treatment for problems in the future. Both of these are important goals that have been somewhat extended to minors in some cases.

Minors do not have a blanket right to consent to medical care, except in emergencies without a proper guardian present. In many states, though, teenagers can consent to certain types of care, like mental health care, drug rehab services, sexual health services, and prenatal care. In addition, some minors can consent to general care in some states if they are emancipated, pregnant, or a “mature minor.” Most of these exceptions are targeted towards care that a teenager might be too embarrassed or ashamed to talk to a parent about. For this reason, most exceptions are for sexual health treatments. This also means that the looser consent guidelines are mostly opposed by people who oppose safer-sex education and contraceptive distribution.

Courtesy of Romano Law PLLC

Minors also generally lack the ability to not consent to care (i.e. to refuse care that their guardian has decided is necessary). The laws for drug rehab and mental health services differ from state to state, and in some states, if a minor of a certain age does not consent to these types of care, their parent cannot force them to be treated. This places minors in a similar situation to adults for this type of care—no family member, no matter how well-meaning, can force them to access treatment. These laws can also help protect teenagers from controversial or damaging treatments that their parents might seek, like religious or conversion therapy. Laws are structured in this way to acknowledge that a mature teen is capable of deciding in either direction, but have still come under scrutiny for making it more difficult to deal with teen drug use.

A major problem for teens trying to take advantage of these laws is that of cost. Teenagers do not, for the most part, have an independent source of income or insurance independent of their parents. If their wishes don’t line up with their parents, that can function as a soft ban on treatment, because the teen simply does not have the resources to seek treatment on their own. Sliding scale and free clinics can take teenage patients, but are often overburdened and may not provide the services that a teen is seeking. Low-cost care for adults also does not equal low cost for a teenager without a job. Universal insurance coverage is unlikely to solve the issue so long as deductibles and copays exist. The most promising solution to guarantee that a teen’s consent sticks is some type of universal free healthcare, for minors or for all people.

The issue of consent for minors is very complex and differs from state to state. Policymakers weigh the need to keep minors healthy and the liberty interests of teens developing a sense of self and the need for parents to be involved in their child’s care. Generally, this has led to narrowly targeted laws for older minors. This area may also evolve in the future as society rethinks medical norms.

NCBI–What Can Parents Do? A Review of State Laws Regarding Decision Making for Adolescent Drug Abuse and Mental Health Treatment–6 March 2016

NCBI–Consent to Treatment of Minors–March 2014

AJPM–State Adolescent Consent Laws and Implications for HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis–2013

Guttmacher Institute–Minors and the Right to Consent to Health Care–1 August 2000

Transgender Youth Under the Trump Administration in Higher Education

By: LeeAnne Pedrick

Trump’s election and presidency have brought about monumental changes to the nation, including the LGBTQ+ and transgender communities.  What seemed like indefinite protections for this underrepresented group from the Obama administration in terms of gender expression quickly turned political under Trump’s America.

Title IX is a policy from the United States Department of Education that protects all students, regardless of sex, from discrimination under any educational program that receives federal funding.  This policy expands its scope by applying to almost all schools, both private and public because almost all schools receive federal funding in some way.  This was a monumental protection for all students in these programs, both secondary and post-secondary, against all sex-discrimination complaints.

After this was revised in 2015, the US Department of Education Civil Rights Division added guidance to Title IX protection written in letter format and titled “Dear Colleague” regarding protections for transgender students. This letter created guidelines to the already existing law by expanding the terminology to gender identity, rather than just sex (organs you are born with), as well as using the correct pronouns (he/him/his, she/her/hers, or they/them).  Additionally, it requires these same schools under Title IX, to respect and legitimize the gender identity the student identifies with, regardless of if it matches the sex they were born with.  This is important because the legal name of a student often does not align with their gender identity, making it harder for them to freely express who they are. This letter allows for students to feel comfortable and safe in their education to freely identify with who they are.  The most significant protection outlined in this letter is the permission of transgender students to freely use the locker rooms, shower facilities, housing, bathrooms, sports teams, etc. that align with their gender identity rather than the sex they were born with. This letter allowed for more consistent protection for transgender students that align with the purpose of Title IX.

Trump quickly reversed the effects of “Dear Colleague” within the first few months of his presidency.  In February of 2017, the Department of Education issued a response “Dear Colleague” in which it submitted regulations to completely reverse the effects of Obama’s “Dear Colleague.” This new letter alleges that the Obama Administration’s letter lacked any sort of legal analysis or evidence that it was consistently aligned with the meaning and purpose of Title IX in the first place. Trump’s letter states that this original sweeping guideline took the role of state and local governments by creating policy on a subject matter that is usually left up to lower levels of government. The combination of the lack of legal analysis and the litigation that has arisen over the first “Dear Colleague” gives reason for its rescission. However, the new “Dear Colleague” assures that there will still be protections in place for transgender students.

While neither “Dear Colleague” constitutes law, both have had significant impacts on education and protection for transgender students.  After Trump’s “Dear Colleague,” schools have felt more relieved of the pressure to adhere to what might not gain the popular vote in allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. Despite this setback for the federal protection of transgender individuals, fifteen states have explicit protection for transgender students and other states have legislation being created to meet the same goal.

For awhile it seemed like the Supreme Court would offer a more definitive solution.  In the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, a transgender teen was using the men’s bathroom which matched his gender identity until parents complained. He was then barred from doing so. He filed suit asking for a preliminary injunction to require the school to allow him to use the correct bathroom. This case was granted writ at the Supreme Court but was never heard because of Trump’s repeal of the original “Dear Colleague.” What could have been the answer for transgender students looking for consistency under the law for proper protection against discrimination quickly was shot down with the same type of regulation offered in “Dear Colleague” under Obama.

Neither Trump nor other branches have issued any more guidelines nor has there been any federal legislation on the matter. It is likely that the future for transgender students’ protection in education will rest on state and local legislators who choose to implement more explicit policy.

Newsweek–Trump Administration Bans Memos Obama Used to Allow Transgender Students to Utilize Bathrooms of Choice–17 November 2017

POLITICO–Obama-era School Sexual Assault Policy Rescinded–22 September 2017

ACLU–G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board–6 March 2017

The Washington Post–Trump Administration Rolls Back Protections for Transgender Students–22 February 2017

United States Department of Education–Dear Colleague Letter of Transgender Students— 13 May 2016

United States Department of Education–Title IX and Sex Discrimination–April 2015

About the author:

LeeAnne Pedrick is a 2L at SUCOL. She is currently a student-attorney for the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic as well as the Treasurer for the Tax Law Society. LeeAnne hopes to be a tax attorney one day.

Charter Schools: Future of Education or Failing Children?

By: Casey Bessemer

A child miseducated is a child lost. – President John F. Kennedy

Education secretary Betsy DeVos has recently released a proposal containing eleven priorities for the public education system. Most of the priorities concern the matter of “school choice”. DeVos is most notable on this issue for pushing for legislation that would offer alternative schooling options, such as virtual schools and charter schools. There is no controversy that children learn and develop in different ways, but there is significant controversy as to which method is the best for children. Options range from boarding school to public school, and everything in between. With DeVos’s proposals and her propensity for charter schools, we could see public education transform from an open, accountable right to a closed, opaque commodity.

The proposal itself is fairly innocuous. DeVos stated that she wants parents and students to have adequate school choice and a flexible learning system, used to promote all learning options for all children. The ideas are grand and should be applauded. The country and the world will need doctors, scientists, engineers, and poets to continue onward. It is therefore undeniably important to not only secure education for children, but a quality education, so that we can have future doctors, scientists, engineer, and poets. The current public education system leaves something to be desired, and from world rankings, we can see that the U.S. is beginning to fall behind of other nations, which means there needs to be some sort of reform. As to what this reform is, is the matter of much debate. Some say to give more funding to the current system and more comprehensive assessments, others want to scrap the whole department and start anew. DeVos has an interesting theory about what would fix this: Public charter schools.

A public charter school is more or less a combination of a public school and a private school. It uses public funds (more than a private school would, but less than a public school) in order to educate children under its own curriculum, much like a private school. It is essentially a baby step towards the privatization of public education. Public charter schools are given a wider berth in terms of curriculum, testing and general philosophy than its public school counterpart. Advocates claim that public charter schools provide as good or better teachers, provide a better education, and serve all students, regardless of race, family income, or disability, all while still being responsible to the public. However, none of these things seem to be true.

Proponents of public charter schools tout the many supposed benefits. Public charter schools have set this idea of receiving a private education at a public price. Children would get the resources and needs their learning requires and parents will not have to take a second mortgage out to fund that kind of education. Public charter schools use less public funds, thereby costing the taxpayer less each year, than traditional public schools and while still being transparent. Public charter schools are here to educate, just like public schools.

But the truth is much farther from this. Public charter schools fall far from their own ideals. Despite being the claim of using less public funds, they often require adequate public money to operate. Although they would like to promote being more prepared to help children, articles indicate that virtual charter schools graduation rates are an abysmal 48% and students returning to traditional public schools after attending KIPP, a nationwide public charter school, are often a year behind. Further, public charter school teachers may or may not be qualified to teach a subject, and they do not serve students as completely as they claim. All of these problems stem from the lack of transparency inherent in the public charter school system. The schools are under no obligation to report scores or testing, or even follow an approved curriculum. They act as, using public money for private needs. Rather what we see is nothing because it is the main issue, there is a lack of transparency between what the public charter school says it does and what it actually does.

Courtesy of neaToday.

From our government, we expect a certain level of transparency and the expectation is not unfounded. People pay taxes and want to know where and on what the money is being spent. Public charter schools, by their very nature, lack of transparency so we do not know exactly who is running the school and what curriculum is being implemented. Public charter schools have almost no accountability for our public funds, have free reign to issue a less than quality education and/or a different education than specified. Teachers in public charter schools could be teaching down to a lesser standard, instead of raising the class to where they should be. The public charter schools could be implementing a religious or special interest based curriculum, much to the chagrin of parents.

Public charter schools present a problem of an unregulated public service and this problem will be a severe detriment to children. Without regulations, without having some sort of check, how can we know the quality of the education being given? They will bear the brunt of whatever educational system we choose and this decision cannot be taken lightly. DeVos’s proposals are broad and her solution is untested and unmanageable. But ultimately, beyond the legislation and the debate, the choice is the parents. They are their child’s keepers and hold the responsibility of how their child will be educated. The fear is that parent’s only options will be subpar education, and I believe that public charter schools force the parents into this choice.

For more information please see:

POLITICO–DeVos Champions Online Charter Schools, but the Results are Poor–8 October 2017

Pew Research Center–U.S. Academic Achievement Lags that of Many Other Countries— 15 February 2017

The Washington Post–Separating Fact from Fiction in 21 Claims about Charter Schools–28 February 2015

Casey Bessemer is from Jacksonville, FL and is a graduate of the College of The Holy Cross. After working for the educational non-profit City Year, he is attending SU Law in hopes of working to improve educational legislation.