A new report from the Education Trust-West, an advocacy organization in Oakland, CA., reveals that 1 in 8 students in California schools has at least one parent who is living in the country illegally.
School officials say that children who are living in families where one or all members are not legal U.S. citizen are experiencing anxiety, which is affecting their ability to focus on school work, and the willingness of parents to attend school events, or even to bring their children to school.
Out of a total enrollment of 6.2 million, Education Trust-West estimates that 750,000 students in California’s PreK-12 schools are affected by illegal immigration, but the vast majority of those kids are U.S. citizens themselves.
Data shows that 240,000 children between 3 and 17-year-olds are here illegally.
The report notes that “figures do not include most of the teenagers and young adults who have received temporary protection from deportation through the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program. By far the majority of the 214,000 young people who were approved are of college-going age.”
David Verdugo, executive director of the One Voice Assembly in Sacramento said, “The anxieties many Latino students are experiencing is taking away from the academic focus we want to maintain throughout our respective districts.”
The Center for American Progress, in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, released a report last month which estimated that more than 1.9 million children under 18 years old in California live in a household with at least one illegal family member. Nearly 70 percent of them are likely to be aged between 5 and 17 years.
“Deporting a family member, especially a parent, has serious detrimental impacts on children,” according to the Center for American Progress report.
The report also showed that “deportations often leave children in the foster care system.” It explained that when fathers are deported — which is most often the case — families are crippled economically and otherwise. They often lose their homes and will likely experience psychological trauma if they witness a parent’s arrest.
California’s state programs offer a great deal of support for college-age students who want an education, but children attending PreK-12 public schools are not supported. In fact, school officials don’t usually know who they are, since they’re not required to collect information on a student’s immigration status, according to the Association of California School Administrators.
This is because of a 1982 Supreme Court ruling which said that undocumented children have a constitutional right to attend U.S. schools.
A small percentage of California school districts have recently begun declaring themselves “safe havens” for immigrant students or passed other resolutions to reassure immigrant students.
The San Francisco-based Immigrant Legal Resource Center advises school district officials to make sure immigrant families have access to important information and resources. “Without creating panic, it is important that immigrant families prepare for potentially harsh new immigration policies,” the center cautioned. “They should have child care and an emergency plan in place if parents are taken into immigration custody.”
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