Equity & Diversity

Trump’s Immigration Policies Hurting Academics and School Attendance, Survey Finds

By Corey Mitchell — February 28, 2018 2 min read
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Nearly 80 percent of educators report having students who have experienced emotional or behavioral problems because they are concerned about immigration enforcement, according to a new national survey from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Overall, 84 percent of educators who participated in the survey said they have students who are concerned about immigration enforcement, with 36 percent of them reporting that students felt “nearly overwhelmed by fear and worry.”

From the effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to President Donald Trump’s call to strip federal funding from “sanctuary cities” that shield undocumented immigrants, the effects of the Trump administration’s immigration policies have been widespread in schools across the country, the survey participants reported.

More than half of the survey participants reported a decline in student academic performance. Teachers, principals, counselors, psychologists, and paraprofessionals shared stories of students who are anxious, depressed, distracted, and missing school more often because of fears that either they or relatives will be deported or detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The survey work was led by Patricia Gándara, a UCLA professor and co-director of the Civil Rights Project and postdoctoral researcher Jongyeon Ee.

Pressure on immigrant students isn’t only coming from outside of their schools; 36 percent of the survey’s participants reported an increase in physical or verbal bullying related to the perceived immigration students or their parents.

“It is painfully evident that as long [as] the parents and family members of immigrant students are losing their jobs and living in fear, the students and their schools will continue to bear the brunt of these policies,” Gándara and Ee wrote.

“The students, the great majority who are U.S. citizens, will continue to be distracted in class, miss school when there are fears of raids of a parent is deported, and even give up on their educations, seeing few possibilities for their future. This is the result of unintended consequences of an immigration enforcement policy that did not consider how it might affect the nation’s most vulnerable schools.”

Educators from 24 school districts in 12 states—Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas —participated in the 14-question survey, which was administered online between late October and mid-January. About 5,450 people responded to the survey, with 3,500 of them completing all the questions.

Here’s a look at the results.

Photo Credit: Diego Rios, 23, of Rockville, Md., rallies in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, outside of the White House last September.--Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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