Graduating High School With No Rights

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011  |  Updated 11:45 AM PDT
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Arab-American Beauty Crowned 2010 Miss USA

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GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 05: Pupils at Willamwood High School attend a biology class on February 5, 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland. As the UK gears up for one of the most hotly contested general elections in recent history it is expected that that the economy, immigration, the NHS and education are likely to form the basis of many of the debates. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

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Students in Richmond willing to miss the American Idol finale Tuesday night were treated to a screening of a documentary that highlights the difficulties faced by undocumented immigrant youth.
     
The film "Papers" follows five undocumented students of various  ethnicities who were born outside the United States but grew up in this country.
     
They turn 18 with no legal status and hit barrier after barrier  when they try to plan their lives after high school, producer Rebecca Shine said.

"People beat up immigrants literally and figuratively," she said. "Politicians use the issue as a wedge to drive people apart. We want people  to think in the future about what they are really afraid of and how we want to treat people in this country."

About 65,000 students graduate from high school each year without "papers," according to Shine.

They can't legally work, drive, apply for a  state ID or fly on an airplane. They risk deportation to countries they don't remember and where they have no roots.

"We want audiences to see the world through the eyes of these  young people," Shine said. "We want them to take action on their behalf."

Audiences are introduced to Yo Sub, a Korean-American National  Honor Student with 12 Advanced Placement credits who is rejected from every  school he applies to. Another student, Simone, is publicly humiliated when  she applies for college.

The third student, Monica, is in deportation hearings to be sent back to a country she doesn't remember. Jorge struggles to be a gay undocumented Hispanic youth while Juan Carlos works hard to become re-engaged  in high school only to face limited options after graduation.
     
The documentary addresses the nonpartisan Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which would give undocumented  youth a path to citizenship if they attend college or join the military.
     
But Shine said the documentary also studies immigration policy  from a historical perspective. It scrutinizes labor policies and looks at trends of scapegoating immigrants when the country experiences social and economic difficulty, Shine said.

Bay City News contributed to this report.  

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