Equity & Diversity

Report: Deportation Fear Grips Immigrant and Refugee Students in U.S. Schools

By Corey Mitchell — November 20, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The educational needs of refugee and immigrant students are frequently unmet in the United States and other nations across the globe, a new United Nations report concludes.

“Building Bridges, Not Walls,” a report released Tuesday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization makes the argument that the current immigration policies of the U.S. government create too many barriers for students who are immigrants or refugees. The report calls for policy changes that would make it easier to integrate these children into schools, increase their access to quality education, and ensure immigrant and refugee families know that schools are safe spaces.

Citing widespread fear and absenteeism in places such as Las Cruces, N.M., and Hamblen County, Tenn., after immigration raids, the report argued that the threat of deportation is a major barrier to immigrant education in the U.S.

Federal law prohibits schools and districts from adopting enrollment policies that deny or discourage children from enrolling because of immigration status, but the issue is affecting children and families across the country.

It’s an issue that Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, has wrestled with firsthand. Manning teaches English and math to newly arrived refugee and immigrant students in Spokane, Wash.

During a panel discussion hosted by the Migration Policy Institute on Tuesday to roll out the UNESCO report, Manning shared stories about students approaching her daily to ask when they or their parents will be forced to leave country.

“All of our immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking students are fearful,” Manning said. “There’s been a dramatic shift... in how our immigrant students feel ... under the current administration.”

The report outlined several other problems that its authors said are pervasive in U.S. schools, including:


  • Children from non-English-speaking households are often misdiagnosed as having special education needs, partly due to literacy tests that are not made available in their home language.
  • Immigrant parents often do not feel welcome to engage with schools and think they have little say in how their children are treated and taught in schools.
  • Older immigrant students are often placed in special programs, separate from the general population, that increases their likelihood of dropping out of school.

José Viana, the director of the office of English-language acquisition at the U.S. Department of Education was scheduled to participate in the Migration Policy Institute panel discussion, but was unable to attend, organizers said.

The UNESCO report also praised the progress the U.S. has made in protecting immigrant students’ rights under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that gives protection to an estimated 700,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. The policy—adopted by the Obama administration—has boosted high school graduation rates for immigrant youth by 15 percent, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

But DACA has been in jeopardy since President Donald Trump took office. As part of his hardline stance on immigration, President Trump announced plans to end the program in September 2017, but the future of DACA remains uncertain. Earlier this month, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the Trump administration from immediately terminating DACA.

Here’s a look at the UNESCO report:

Migration, Displacement and Education; Building Bridges, Not Walls by corey_c_mitchell on Scribd

Related Stories and Videos

Mandy Manning, 2018 National Teacher of the Year, Works With Refugee Students

Teachers Rally Around Undocumented Students

Trump’s Immigration Policies Hurting Academics and School Attendance

Kids Count: Immigrants and Their Children Face Challenges on Path to Opportunity

Photo: Zeinab Ahmed watches her classmates play a game in gym class at Discovery Community School in St. Cloud, Minn. The school serves a large number of Somali students. --Swikar Patel/Education Week

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Illustrations.
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Educational Equity Descends Into Educational Nihilism
Schools need to buckle down to engage and educate kids—not lower (or eliminate) expectations in the name of “equity.”
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty