Report: Federal immigration policies contributing to absenteeism
- Thanks to current U.S. immigration policy and fears of deportation, schools are seeing higher absenteeism rates, according to a report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
- The 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report showed that the fear that they or a loved one could be deported is keeping children out of school, notes an NBC News article. It's even worse if a school lets Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents search its buildings or gives these officials information about students' and families' immigration statuses.
- Immigration policies being implemented by the government "are detrimental to the education of those with undocumented status," the study found, and UNESCO recommends that the nation help ensure immigrant children's access to high-quality education and maintain schools as safe spaces where undocumented people won't fear deportation.
Trauma can affect students greatly, and when this trauma includes the fear of being deported or the fear of a family member being deported, students can have a difficult time performing in school or coming to school at all. Facing a crisis situation makes it tougher for a student to focus, learn and maintain a sense of well-being. And for immigrant students, this trauma can be extremely difficult to deal with.
A high percentage of students deal with trauma, and it's estimated that some 1.8 million undocumented children and youth are living in the United States. That means some 1.8 million undocumented children and youth are subject to some sort of trauma associated with their immigration status, especially under the Trump administration, which has cracked down on immigration and migrants attempting to cross the border.
While this trauma mostly affects undocumented students and their families, schools and administrators have to deal with the aftermath — struggling students, negative accountability numbers, and a disjointed and disconnected school community.
Some schools have noted these effects and have chosen to do something about it. In Las Cruces, New Mexico — which was hit by an ICE raid in February 2017 — absenteeism rose by 60% in a local school district, NBC News reports. The school board changed its policies in favor of barring collecting information about students' immigration statuses, giving information to ICE and letting officials storm school grounds. And other schools can step up, too.
Administrators and school leaders can provide more support for these students through mental health resources, a stronger school community, and a move toward more personalized learning practices that accommodate students' unique situations. Embracing more favorable federal immigration policies — like former president Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is allowing current recipients to renew their statuses — and encouraging eligible students to take advantage of these opportunities will help guide them through this difficult time. Supporting the whole student, including their life outside the classroom, is key to ensuring academic and personal success.
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