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Guest Editorial: It’s up to us

By Dr. Trish Hatch

How immigration status affects children

Studies show there are more than 11 million people currently residing in the United States that do not have legal status or authorization from the government to be here.

Of that 11 million, approximately 3.9 of them are children. Children, at no fault of their own, are at great risk regarding the impacts of deportation, with the total numbers of “undocumented” parents — one or both — rising for children K-12.

In a guide they wrote for schools regarding the stress that immigration status has on children, Marquette University educators Lisa M. Edwards, Phd, department of counselor education and counseling psychology, and Jacki Black, MA Ed, associate director for Hispanic initiatives, focused on a number of specific areas of concern when it comes to these children. They drilled down on subjects, including the context of immigration stress; how detention and deportation affects children; toxic stress: how the threat of detention and deportation affects children; behavioral/emotional signs of immigration status-related stress in the classroom; and they offered a list of ways school personnel can support students in the classroom and their families.

While Edwards and Black agree that every child is different, they state that every child that suffers the loss of one or both parents to deporation, or are hindered by the threat of losing them, can show various negative symptoms or behaviors at school.

Many of these are akin to PTSD-like symptoms and can include withdrawal; anger and aggression; hyper-arousal or hyper-vigilance; difficulties focusing at school; somatic complaints; crying and sadness’ poor appetite; poor or disrupted sleep; anxiety and academic decline.

The Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL) is a nonprofit Center within San Diego State Universities College of Education.

CESCal’s mission, in addition of promoting excellence in the field of school counseling, is to assist school counselors, their schools and their central office administrators as they design, implement and evaluate their school counseling programs.

Over the years to supplement our regular services, we have held various conferences to further assist school counselors who support ESL students, special needs students, and LGBTQ students, where we bring myriad resources together in one place that may not be otherwise be as readily available.

In April 2016, CESCaL hosted the first annual conference to ensure access and equity to higher education for immigrant and undocumented youth by ensuring those who work with them received expert training on how to mentor, counsel, and advise future college candidates.

CESCaL chose to address this specific student population due to CESCaL’s commitment to advocate for marginalized student groups, improve effective practices among educators, provide a forum for collaboration and networking, problem solve critical training issues, and provide ongoing professional development.

Later this month, CESCaL will present the second annual conference of this type, called: “Supporting Access to Higher Education for Immigrant and Undocumented Students.”

Currently, millions of undocumented immigrant students and families are eager to pursue postsecondary education but they face significant barriers to educational attainment. Most are unaware of the financial opportunities available to them and are subject to institutional gatekeeping that impacts access to post-secondary opportunities.

Undocumented immigrant students also graduate at drastically lower rates than U.S. born citizens and only 5–10 percent of undocumented high school graduates go on to enroll in college, according to the College Board, 2009.

There is much work to be done.

A pre-survey of conference attendees revealed that more than 40 percent of the school counselors and college access partners who responded reported lacked the knowledge of the laws and rights and undocumented and/or immigrant students.

Similarly, more than 40 percent reported lacking the knowledge of the college application process for undocumented and/or immigrant students, and only 47.68 percent felt confident advising undocumented and/or immigrant students regarding the college application process.

Average school counselors know far less.

The goal of the upcoming conference is to teach and empower school counselors and college access partners with this information as well as the attitudes necessary to take personal responsibility as advocates for immigrant and undocumented students.

We will also provide them with the skills to navigate the college application process, locate funding options, access post-secondary opportunities, and utilize culturally competent techniques to mentor, counsel, and advice future college candidates.

This three-day conference will kick-off on Sunday, April 23 at 5 p.m. with an awards ceremony and conclude Tuesday, April 25, with workshops and a school counselor college fair at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center in San Diego State University.

—Trish Hatch, PhD, is a professor at SDSU and former director of the school counseling program (2004-2015). For more information about this conference, contact Dr. Diana Camilo, coordinator of special projects, at events@cescal.org or visit tinyurl.com/l499s26.

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