Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

New UNESCO report exposes education challenges faced by immigrants in the USA


November 21, 2018

UNESCO’s new Global Education Monitoring Report released on International Children’s Day highlights the significant impact that immigration policies in the United States are having on the education of migrant children. The 2019 Report, entitled Building bridges, not walls, draws particular attention to the obstacles that undocumented immigrants face in accessing education in the country.

Two-thirds of unauthorised immigrants in the United States have lived there for at least a decade; 7% of all children in the country are born to unauthorized immigrants. Mexico to the United States is the largest corridor in absolute terms, with 12.7 million migrants in 2017.

Despite the high number of unauthorised immigrants, the United States government’s immigration policies are detrimental to the education of those with undocumented status. Between 2013 and 2017, around 50,000 children were stopped at the US border on average every year. Paediatric and mental health professionals visiting family detention centres reported that education services were inadequate.

Deportation is a major barrier for immigrants in education. This is further exacerbated by the prospect of school searches by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the collection of immigration information by schools. In early 2017, absenteeism within the Las Cruces, New Mexico school district rose by 60% following an immigration raid. In April 2018, 20% of Hispanic students in Hamblen County, Tennessee, missed school following another immigration raid.

However, the report also acknowledges progress in protecting immigrants’ education. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme introduced in 2012 has provided renewable two year protection from deportation and eligibility for a work permit to undocumented youth who arrived as children, under conditions including current school attendance or a secondary certificate. About 700,000 people eligible had applied by May 2018, almost 80% of which were Mexican. It increased secondary graduation rates by an estimated 15%.

The effects on post-secondary attendance and completion were more nuanced. Community colleges, where flexible courses can accommodate working students witnessed the most positive effects. All states except Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, allow undocumented students to access and enrol in higher education. However, many public colleges and universities charge out-of-state tuition fees to unauthorised immigrants, even if they are long-time state residents.

Migration from Latin America to the United States has some benefits for countries of origin. New estimates in the Report show that remittances increased receiving families’ education spending by more than 50% in Latin America. Children of emigrants in the wider Latin American region had 1.4 more years of education than those the children of those who did not. This often depends on the time of arrival: 60% of Mexican immigrants who arrived at age 7 completed secondary school, compared with 30% of those who arrived at age 14.

In Mexico, children whose mothers migrate are 12% more likely to complete secondary school. Mexican girls complete more years of school if their fathers migrate, particularly to the United States.

The GEM Report's stark contrast between the positive effects of emigration in Mexico and the negative influence of restrictive immigration policies in the United States signifies how offering a long-term perspective to immigrants can serve to improve educational prospects for both migrants and those left-behind.

The report presents the following recommendations:

1. The United States needs to strengthen measures that enable better access and improved quality for immigrant children’s education.

2. Ensure that schools grounds are a safe space for undocumented migrants without fear of deportation.


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