© 2016 Institute for Immigration, Globalization, & Education
The project was made possible with funding from the Ford Foundation. Initial research for parts of this report was developed with support from the Western Union Foundation with assistance from Carolyn Bajal-Sattin.
In this report we consider promising practices for addressing the challenge of integrating immigrant children, youth, and their families into their new societies. Mass migration is touching every corner of the earth. For some countries, the story of immigration is as old as their founding; for others, the experience of receiving large numbers of foreigners is entirely novel. Immigrant populations vary dramatically across countries in their number and proportion and in their geographical, national, ethnic, religious, and linguistic origins. At the same time, there is a convergence of experience among various nation-states, as the steady flow of migrants across borders and into the institutional and social structures of society demands a public response. Developing and sharing best practices to meet the needs of immigrant families and their children and to support their successful integration into their new societies is no longer an option but is essential for economic development and social cohesion.
Integration can be defined as “the inclusion of new populations into existing social structures of the immigration country. . . . It concerns primarily the immigrants and their descendants, but is an interactive, mutual process that changes the settlement society as well.” The four key dimensions to integration include: 1-structural (including access to the labor market and core institutions like schools); 2-cultural (taking on the behaviors, attitudes, and language) 3-social (integrating and actively engaging with social relationships), and 4-identification (feeling of belonging and taking on the new identity).1 There is ample evidence that over time, and across generations, new groups typically assimilate taking on the cultural traits of the host society. There is concern, however, that when integration efforts fail and immigrant groups are excluded there are costs to both the immigrants themselves and to the host-society.
We begin by taking, as a case study, the challenges to integration encountered by immigrant children and youth within the U.S. context. We highlight the social context of reception including economic realities, immigration policies, and the social mirror. We consider the role of the family of origin including poverty, undocumented status and familial educational background and the ways in which this can act as a barrier to facile integration. We examine student level factors including socio-emotional and language acquisition challenges and challenges. Lastly, consider how schools can serve to either hinder or be a catalyst in the integration of new immigrants in their new society. This provides a conceptual basis in which to frame the importance of the various promising practices that are then outlined through the rest of the report.
The report then turns to outlining several important strategies for immigrant integration turning for exemplars for promising practices across the globe. We conducted a systematic review of promising practices found in the relevant scholarly literature, on websites, and through our extensive network of international contacts. The report identifies a number of promising strategies coming from a range of service providers (including NGOs, national and local governments, religious organizations, and corporate organizations) that help to facilitate the integration of immigrant families and their children into the fabric of their new lands. These promising practices fall within five broad strategies with specific foci emerging within each strategic category: 1-Orientation to the new land; 2-Educational efforts oriented toward parents; 3-Educational efforts oriented towards children and youth; 4-After-school activities for children & youth: & 5-Improving the host societies’ perceptions of immigrants. For each we provide a brief over-view of the theory of change of the over-arching category. We then provide several sub-examples of specific strategies and a number of case example, and a link to the website of each.
Each of the “bright spots” of practice serves as a beacon of inspiration for modeling innovation. The children of immigrants are an important and growing part of not only the United States but also every other post-industrial nation. As such, a comprehensive strategy to supporting them has not only enormous benefit for their own current and future well-being but also has critical implications for the very economic and civic fabric of their new societies.
The Developmental & Education Challenges of Immigrant Children & Youth
Identifying Promising Practices
DEVELOPMENTAL & EDUCATIONAL CHALLENGES OF IMMIGRANT CHILDREN & YOUTH
The Social Contexts of Reception
IDENTIFYING PROMISING PRACTICES
Orientation to a New Society
- Pre-Migration Information
- Support for Parenting in the New Land
- Adult Mentoring
- Information on Educational Pathways
- Citizenship Information
- Employment Information
- Health Services Information
- Access to Affordable Housing
Educational Efforts Oriented towards Parents
Educational Efforts Oriented towards Children & Youth
- Newcomer programs
- Services for Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE)
- Focus on New Language Development
- Heritage Language Development
- Professional Development for School Staff & Faculty
- College Pathway Knowledge
- Summer Enrichment
- Facilitating Parent Involvement
- Translation and Interpretation
- Advisory Groups, After-School Academic Supports, Mentoring & Health Services
- Post-Secondary Practices
After-School Activities for Youth
- Youth Academic Supports
- Extra-Curricular Activities
- Risk Behavior Prevention
- Cultural Identity
- College Readiness Programs
- Youth Mentoring
Improving a Host Society’s Perceptions of Immigrants
This section will provide a brief overview of the possibilities and challenges that immigrant origin children and youth encounter as they navigate their new land. Immigrant youth are more diverse than ever before, arriving from multiple points of origin; In the U.S. for example, 89% originate from Latin America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, or the Caribbean while 11% migrate from Europe or Canada. Some are the children of educated professional parents while others have illiterate parents. Some receive excellent schooling in their countries of origin while others leave educational systems that are in shambles. Some are refugees escaping political, religious, and social strife or environmental catastrophes., Others are motivated by the promise of better jobs while still others frame their migrations as an opportunity to provide better education for their children.
Some are documented migrants while millions are unauthorized migrants. Some join well-established communities with robust social supports while others move from one migrant setting to another. The educational outcomes of immigrant youth will vary considerably, depending upon their constellation of resources.
Whether or not immigrant students will be successful educationally is determined by a convergence of factors—the social context of reception (economic realities, immigration policies, and the social mirror), family capital (such as poverty, parental education, and authorization status), student resources (their socioemotional challenges and their facility in acquiring a second language), and the kinds of schools that immigrant students encounter (school segregation, the language instruction they are provided, how well prepared their teachers are to provide services to them). This complex constellation of variables serves to undermine or, conversely, to bolster students’ academic integration and adaptation.
Immigrant families arrive in their new land with distinct social and cultural resources. Their high aspirations, dual frames of reference, optimism, dedicated hard work, positive attitudes toward school, above and ethic of family support for advanced learning contribute to the fact that some immigrant youth educationally outperform their native-born peers. On the other hand, many immigrant youth encounter such a myriad of challenges—economic obstacles, xenophobia (fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners), language difficulties, family separations, under-resourced neighborhoods and schools, and the like—that they struggle to gain their bearings in an educational system that may put them on a path of downward trajectory.
The contexts in which an immigrant family settles shape the cultural adaptation experiences of its children. Here we consider three that arguably matter most in relation to immigrant student education.
Securing work is a paramount motivation for many immigrants, and the work setting is extremely important in understanding the immigrant experience. It is through parents’ work that immigrant families realize substantial benefits secondary to large wage differentials. The broader economic context shapes the experience of immigration in a variety of ways: the types of jobs that are available, the stability of jobs, and the opportunities to move up a status mobility ladder. The stability and quality of jobs, along with parents’ status mobility, in turn have implications for immigrant students. How often students change schools and how well members of immigrant communities are represented in the school system are but a few of the variables linking parents’ work with their children’s educational experiences and successes. While skilled immigrants have been rapidly moving up into the top tiers of the work hierarchy many others, particularly those with lesser skills, have stagnated since the Great Recession.
In recent decades in the United States, immigration policy has largely focused on border control, with little consideration given to a national integration policy for new immigrants. Since 1988, when the amnesty provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act ended, U.S. immigration policy has restricted pathways to citizenship for the undocumented. What in the public imagination are clearly demarcated lines of legal and illegal are in fact states of liminal legality.> Many families, children, and youth exist in a state of ambiguous documentation, fall out of legal status, or live in families of mixed status—in which some members are documented while others are not. Furthermore, during the past decade, the United States has become a “deportation nation,” deporting 400,000 individuals a year.26 Concurrently, as attitudes toward undocumented immigrants have grown increasingly harsher, a wave of state and local laws has been enacted targeting undocumented immigrants. Long backlogs, deep bureaucracy, and high rates of denials and deportations have cemented growing numbers of transnationally separated and mixed-status families.> These contexts of reception have significant implications for students’ development and academic experiences.
In addition to economic and policy contexts of reception, the social welcome mat profoundly influences the development of immigrant-origin children. Immigrants’ identities are shaped by their ethos of reception. The social mirror—the general social and emotional atmosphere and the collective representations of immigrants that new arrivals encounter upon their settlement in the new country—is an important context of immigration (Suárez-Orozco, 2000). In the 1980s, a comprehensive look at the experiences of Punjabi immigrants in rural California painted a very troubling picture of the effects of negative social mirroring on academic challenges—from intense peer interactions around race to struggles within the community on how to support (or reject) Punjabi families in schools. More recently, and during times of socioeconomic and political anxiety, there is continued evidence that immigrants embody nativists’ fear of the unknown. The recent rapid increase in immigration; the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001; the persistence of unauthorized immigration; and the deep economic recession have aligned to arouse U.S. citizens’ unease concerning immigrants of color. Xenophobia as been on the rise, especially as directed toward newer immigrants and toward Muslims and Latinos. There is ample evidence of negative media coverage of immigration, an increase in hate crimes against immigrants, and exclusionary legislation enacted on municipal, state, and federal levels. Furthermore, since the new immigrants are predominantly of non-European origin, their children will remain visible minorities for generations, subject to the ongoing racial climate of the nation. What are the developmental and educational implications of such a social reception?
Immigrant parents and their children face different tasks when crafting an identity and sense of belonging in the new society.37 For immigrant parents and latecomer adolescents, a dual frame of reference that brings together “the here and now” and “the there and then” filters the ways in which they view themselves and their new lives. Family roles must be renegotiated. The challenges of providing for the family in a new country, contending with status demotions and promotions, navigating new gendered ideologies and practices, and learning to raise children according to new cultural expectations and standards all become central themes in the creation of these new identities. For their children, the work of developing identities will, at different stages of development, involve “fitting in” with peers, struggling with issues of embarrassment about their parent’s foreign ways (e.g., accents, dress, manners, and ethnic foods), and eventually synthesizing cultural currents from the parental tradition and the norms, values, and worldviews of the new society. Hybridity—the fusion of multiple cultural trends—characterizes second-generation immigrant-origin children’s process of creating their new identities.37 Importantly, these identity processes in turn influence immigrant students’ experiences with peers, teachers, and school and influence their sense of academic efficacy, aspirations, and eventual achievement.
The family, of course, is a context of development that is critical for shaping the experiences of children. Family characteristics shape educational pathways in many ways— positively as sources of resiliency and facilitation but also in negative ways that increase educational risk for some immigrant-origin children. Here we consider three negative issues that may matter most for immigrant youth and their educational experiences.
More than half of children with immigrant parents live in circumstances of poverty. Further, for immigrant-origin children, official calculations of family poverty fail to consider the economic complications of their families’ transnational lives. Many immigrant families, particularly those who have recently arrived, maintain dual economic ties, making remittances to spouses, other children, parents, siblings, and other family members in the country of origin for medical, educational, and other basic expenses. Thus, already thin resources are stretched even further.
Poverty is recognized as a significant risk factor for poor educational outcomes. Children raised in circumstances of socioeconomic deprivation are vulnerable to an array of distresses, including difficulties concentrating and sleeping, anxiety, and depression, as well as a heightened propensity for delinquency and violence. Those living in poverty often experience the stress of major life events as well as the stress of daily hassles that significantly impede academic performance. Poverty frequently coexists with a variety of other factors that augment risks—such as single-parenthood and residency in neighborhoods plagued by violence, gang activity, and drug trade—as well as school environments that are segregated, overcrowded, and poorly funded. High poverty is also associated with high rates of housing mobility and concurrent school transitions, which are highly disruptive to educational performance42 Although some immigrant students come from privileged backgrounds, large numbers suffer today from the challenges associated with poverty.
An estimated 11.1 million immigrants live in the U.S. without authorization, and of that population, 78% are from Mexico and Latin America.10 Among the undocumented population in the U.S., 1.1 million are children or adolescents.> These undocumented youth often arrive after multiple family separations and traumatic border crossings. In addition, there are an estimated 4.5 million U.S. citizen-children living in households headed by at least one undocumented immigrant. Unauthorized children and youth in households with other unauthorized members live with anxiety and fear of being separated from family members if they or someone they love is apprehended or deported; such psychological and emotional duress can take a heavy toll on the academic experiences of children growing up in these homes. Further, while unauthorized youth legally have equal access to K–12 education, they do not have equal access to health, social services, or jobs.>,,43 In addition, undocumented students with dreams of graduating from high school and going on to college will find that their legal status stands in the way of their access to postsecondary educational opportunities. Thus, immigrant-origin students who are unauthorized or who come from unauthorized families suffer from both a particular burden of unequal access and the psychological burdens of growing up in the shadows of unauthorized status.>
Parental education matters tremendously for children’s academic pathways. Highly literate parents are better equipped to guide their children in studying, accessing, and making meaning of educational information. Children with more educated parents are exposed to more academically oriented vocabulary and interactions at home, and younger children tend to be read to more often from books that are valued at school. These parents understand the value of and have the resources to provide additional books, a home computer, Internet access, and tutors that less educated parents cannot supply. They are also more likely to seek information about how to navigate the educational system in the new land.
Unfortunately, however, many immigrant parents have had limited schooling. Moreover, low parental education is compounded by parents’ limited skills in the language of the new land, which are related to the support children receive for learning the language of instruction at home. Such disadvantaged backgrounds will have implications for the students’ educational transition—unsurprisingly, youth arriving from families with lower levels of education tend to struggle academically while those who come from more literate families with strong language skills often flourish. It is worth noting, however, that these patterns do not hold true for all immigrant families and communities. There are many examples of immigrant parents who provide educational socialization in the home despite having a low level of education themselves. For example, a study of Somali refugees noted the occurrence of such socialization in students’ homes despite teachers’ beliefs that the parents were disengaged.
Immigrant parents, however, often do not possess the kind of “cultural capital” that serves middle-class mainstream students well;15 not knowing the dominant cultural values of the new society limits immigrant parents’ abilities to provide an upward academic path for their children. Oftentimes parental involvement is neither a cultural practice in their countries of origin nor an activity that their financial situation in this country would permit. They come from cultural traditions in which parents are expected to respect teachers’ recommendations rather than to advocate for their children. In addition, not speaking English and having limited education may make them feel inadequate. Lack of documentation may cause them to worry about exposure to immigration raids49 if they were to have contact with their children’s school. Moreover, low-wage, low-skill jobs with off-hour shifts typically do not provide much flexibility for parents to obtain childcare and attend parent–teacher conferences. The impediments to these parents’ ability to come to the school are multiple, but they are frequently interpreted by teachers and principals as the parents’ “not valuing” their children’s education.
Ironically, however, immigrant parents often frame the family narrative of migration around providing better educational opportunities for their children. Although they may care deeply about their children’s education and may often urge their children to work hard in school so that they will not have to perform hard physical labor as they do, immigrant parents frequently do not have firsthand experience with the host country’s school system or their own native country’s educational system. They also have very limited social networks that could provide the educational resources to help them navigate the complicated college pathway system of the host country. Thus, they often have limited capacities to help their children successfully “play the educational game” in their new land.
Migration is a transformative process with profound implications for the family as well as the potential for lasting impact on socioemotional development. By any measure, immigration is one of the most stressful events a family can undergo removing family members from predictable contexts—community ties, jobs, and customs—and stripping them of significant social ties—extended family members, best friends, and neighbors. New arrivals who experienced trauma (either prior to migrating or as events secondary to the “crossing”) may remain preoccupied with the violence and may also feel guilty about having escaped while loved ones remained behind. Those who are undocumented face the growing realities of workplace raids that can lead to traumatic and sudden separations.
The dissonance in cultural expectations and the cumulative stressors, together with the loss of social supports, lead to elevated affective and somatic symptoms. Due to their own struggles in adapting to a new country, many immigrant parents may be relatively unavailable psychologically, posing a developmental challenge to their children.  (Immigrant parents often may turn to their children when navigating the new society; they are frequently asked to take on responsibilities beyond their years, including sibling care, translation, and advocacy, sometimes undermining parental authority but also often stimulating precocious development. Additionally, immigrant children and youth face the challenges of forging an identity and sense of belonging to a country that may reflect an unfamiliar culture while also honoring the values and traditions of their parents. 37  Nonetheless, many immigrant-origin children demonstrate extraordinary resilience and resourcefulness as they navigate their developmental journey.,21,
Many immigrant children struggle with the process of acquiring academic English. Among pre-kindergarten to 5th-grade immigrant children in the U.S., 62% of foreign-born children were found to speak English less than "very well" while 43% of the U.S.–born children of immigrants and 12% of children of U.S.–born were categorized as such.49 Learning a second language often takes a long time, and becoming a competent language user at an academic level takes even longer. It has been well established that the complexity of oral and written academic English skills generally requires between five to seven years of optimal academic instruction for a student to develop academic second-language skills comparable to those of native English speakers. In a longitudinal study of 400 immigrant-origin students from five countries, only 7 percent had developed academic English skills equivalent to those of their native-born English-speaking peers after being (on average) in the U.S. for seven years.
Many immigrant students from strife-ridden or poverty-stricken countries enter schools in their new lands with little or no schooling, and they may not read or write well in their native languages. Research in second-language acquisition suggests that when students are well grounded in their native language and have developed reading and writing skills in that language, they are able to efficiently apply that knowledge to the new language when provided with appropriate instructional supports. Many immigrant students do not enter schools with this advantage, however. Further, English-language learner (ELL) students often cannot receive support for learning English from their parents.49 These students also have limited opportunities for sustained interactions with highly proficient native English-speaking peers in informal situations (e.g., in the cafeterias and hallways of schools and in neighborhood contexts), contact that is strongly predictive of academic second-language proficiency outcomes.
Less developed academic English proficiency, however, can mask the actual knowledge and skills of immigrant second-language learners (SLLs), which they are unable to express and demonstrate. Even when second-language learners are able to participate and compete in mainstream classrooms, they often read more slowly than native speakers do, may not understand double entendres, and simply have not been exposed to the same words and cultural information that native-born middle-class peers know. Their academic language skills may also not allow them to be easily engaged with academic content and to perform well on “objective” assessments that are designed for native English speakers. Thus, it is not surprising that limited English proficiency is often associated with lower GPAs, students having to repeat grades, poor performance on standardized tests, and low graduation rates.
Further, the strong emphasis on high-stakes assessments in the U.S.—first with No Child Left Behind and now with the Common Core—presents a particular challenge for ELLs. There is considerable debate about whether and how educational assessments, and high-stakes assessments in particular, may lead to unequal outcomes for English-language learners. Standardized tests used to screen for learning differences or for making policy decisions were largely designed for and normed with middle-class populations or were adapted from work with those populations. Such tests assume exposure to mainstream cultural knowledge and fail to recognize culture-of-origin content knowledge. This perspective can lead to underestimation of students’ abilities and competencies. Timed tests penalize second-language learners who process two languages before settling on an answer79 and when culturally or linguistically sensitive approaches are not utilized, individuals' needs often go unrecognized or, conversely, can be overpathologized.74 Multiple sources of assessment bias stem from “who is given tests, in what language, by whom, when, and where.”79
In a climate of high-stakes educational assessment, school districts are sometimes pressured to prematurely reclassify students from English-language learners (ELLs) to fluent English proficient. In other cases, immigrant students suffer as “long-term ELLs.” (With poorly implemented school assessments and an assortment of language-learning policies, there is wide variability among districts and states in this classification. Seldom is reclassification tied to the research evidence on what it takes for a student to attain a level of academic-language proficiency required to be competitive on standardized assessments.67,80 As higher stakes have become attached to standardized tests, this issue has heightened consequences for English-language learners and the schools that serve them.
Schools, while offering great potential, are all too often out of synch for serving immigrant-origin students. Here we consider three ways in which they are often out of synch.
Segregation in neighborhoods and schools has negative consequences for the academic success of minority students. In all but a few “exceptional cases under extraordinary circumstances, schools that are separate are still unquestionably unequal.”84 Nationally, immigrants tend to settle in highly segregated and deeply impoverished urban settings and attend the most segregated schools of any group in the U.S. today—in 1996, only 25% of immigrant students attended majority-white schools.84 The degree of segregation results in a series of consequences; in general, immigrants who settle in predominantly minority neighborhoods have virtually no direct, systematic, or intimate contact with middle-class white Americans. This situation in turn affects the quality of the schools their children attend and the networks that are useful for accessing desirable colleges and jobs.13
Segregation of immigrant-origin students often involves their isolation at the levels of race and ethnicity, poverty, and language—aptly named “triple segregation.”84 These three dimensions of segregation have been associated with reduced school resources and a variety of negative educational outcomes, including low expectations for students, their difficulties learning English, their lower achievement, greater school violence, and higher dropout rates.43 Such school contexts undermine immigrant students’ capacity to concentrate, their sense of security, and their ability to access positive trajectories of performance.
Segregation places immigrant students at a significant disadvantage as they strive to learn a new language, master the skills necessary to pass high-stakes tests, accumulate graduation credits, get into college, and attain the skills needed to compete in workplaces increasingly shaped by the demands of the new global economy. All too many schools that serve the children of immigrants, like schools that serve our other disadvantaged students, are those that seem to be designated to teach “other people’s children;” they offer the least to those who need the most, thereby structuring and reinforcing inequality.
The majority of immigrant students must learn a new language as part of their journey to their new land; as such, second-language instruction is a critical component necessary to ensure their academic success. Frequently, students are placed in some kind of second-language instructional setting as they enter their new schools.43 Students are then transitioned out of these settings in various schools, districts, and states, often with very little rhyme or reason for the transition.14 Research considering the efficacy of second-language instruction and bilingual programs reveals contradictory results. This outcome should not be surprising given that there are nearly as many models of bilingual and language-assistance programs featuring a wide array of practices as well as philosophical approaches as there are districts. Well-designed and well-implemented programs produce good educational results and buffer at-risk students from dropping out by easing transitions, providing academic scaffolding, and furnishing a sense of community.
There is, however, a huge disparity in the quality of instruction among settings. Although it has been well demonstrated that high-quality programs produce excellent results, not surprisingly, those plagued with problems produce less than optimal results. Many bilingual programs, unfortunately, face real challenges in their implementation, characterized by inadequate resources, uncertified personnel, and poor administrative support. Perhaps the most common problem in the day-to-day running of bilingual programs is the dearth of fully certified bilingual teachers who are trained in second-language acquisition and who can serve as proper language models for their students.  Because many bilingual programs throughout the nation are ambivalently supported, they simply do not offer the breadth and depth of courses immigrant students need to get into a meaningful college track. Hence, there is an ever-present danger that once a student enters the “second-language” or “bilingual” track, she will have difficulty switching to the college-bound track. The mission of the schools is often not focused on meeting the needs of newcomer students—at best they tend to be ignored, and at worst they are viewed as a problem contributing to a school’s low performance on state-mandated high-stakes tests.
All too often, the cumulative challenges immigrant youth encounter and the ways in which their educational environments misalign with their socio-emotional and educational needs. Understanding how social contextual, familial, individual, and school variables contribute to varying patterns of academic trajectories for recently arrived youth is important; focusing on schools is essential due to the mutable nature of this setting. Working to develop and implement practices to bridge the gap between immigrant students’ challenges and their educational environments is a crucial step toward helping our newest students achieve their potential.
Newcomer immigrant students with limited resources often enter our poorest and most segregated schools, which have the very least to offer the students most in need of support. These schools typically offer run-down facilities and less access to basic supplies like textbooks as well as high rates of teacher and principal turnover. In many such schools, we observed low standards and aspirations for the students and frequent exchanges of disparaging comments. Many of these schools were sites of gang activities and/or bullying, and the adults on site demonstrated little connection with their students or the parents they ostensibly served (see Suárez-Orozco et al., 2008, for detailed descriptions of these “less than optimal schools”). Rather than acting as “sites of possibilities,” all too many schools were failing to meet the needs of their newcomer students.
The effects of immigration are not confined to mere changes of geography. The political upheaval, ethnic or religious persecution, and traumas experienced prior to migration add burdens for many youth beyond the dislocations and necessary adjustment of immigration. Separations from parents for lengthy periods of time occur in a majority of migratory journeys. Some students face the added stress of undocumented status. To be most successful, educators serving the recently arrived immigrant students must be aware of the issues their students may be facing. However, too often, teachers or administrators are unaware of the unique constellation of risks that burden many immigrant youth and their families.
Social relationships and interactions with schoolmates, teachers, and counselors, along with the flow of informational capital, play a significant role in shaping academic outcomes for youth with limited opportunities. For recently arrived immigrants, positive relationships with family, community, and school members serve to create a sense of well-being. Formal and informal relationships with supportive adults and mentors can help recently arrived immigrants by providing them with crucial information about the educational system as well as explicit academic tutoring, homework assistance, and college pathway scaffolding. While schools are essential they are not enough. Programs developed with the needs of this target population in mind can play an important role in easing their transition to their new land.
We now turn to considering promising practices for addressing the challenge of integrating immigrant children, youth, and their families into their new societies. Mass migration is touching every corner of the earth. For some countries, the story of immigration is as old as their founding; for others, the experience of receiving large numbers of foreigners is entirely novel. Immigrant populations vary dramatically across countries in their number and proportion and in their geographical, national, ethnic, religious, and linguistic origins. At the same time, there is a convergence of experience among various nation-states, as the steady flow of migrants across borders and into the institutional and social structures of society demands a public response. Developing and sharing best practices to meet the needs of immigrant families and their children and to support their successful integration into their new societies is no longer an option but is essential for economic development and social cohesion.
Integration can be defined as “the inclusion of new populations into existing social structures of the immigration country. . . . It concerns primarily the immigrants and their descendants, but is an interactive, mutual process that changes the settlement society as well.”1 The four key dimensions to integration include: 1-structural (including access to the labor market and core institutions like schools); 2-cultural (taking on the behaviors, attitudes, and language) 3-social (integrating and actively engaging with social relationships), and 4-identification (feeling of belonging and taking on the new identity). There is ample evidence that over time, and across generations, new groups typically assimilate taking on the cultural traits of the host society. There is concern, however, that when integration efforts fail and immigrant groups are excluded there are costs to both the immigrants themselves and to the host-society.
We conducted a systematic review of promising practices found in the relevant scholarly literature, on websites, and through our extensive network of international contacts. The report identifies a number of promising strategies coming from a range of service providers (including NGOs, national and local governments, religious organizations, and corporate organizations) that help to facilitate the integration of immigrant families and their children into the fabric of their new lands. These promising practices fall within five broad strategies with specific foci emerging within each strategic category: 1-Orientation to the new land; 2-Educational Efforts oriented toward parents; 3-School-based practices oriented towards children and youth; 4-After-school activities for children & youth: & 5-Efforts towards improving the host societies’ perceptions of immigrants.
Transnational migrants possess a vast range of motivations for embarking on a migratory journey, and they face highly divergent conditions throughout the course of their journeys and upon arrival in a new society. Migration can be a thoroughly exciting experience, a traumatic one, or a combination of both. Regardless of where a person comes from or the skills and experiences he/she brings, all immigrants must face the challenges of adjusting to a new society, learning its norms, values, and customs, and, in many cases, learning a new language. There are many ways in which sending and receiving countries can help facilitate immigrants’ adaptation both prior to migration and upon arrival. National, state, and local-level policies and programs, combined with community-based initiatives to inform immigrants of their rights and responsibilities prior to migrating; support for immigrants in getting jobs, finding suitable housing, and enrolling children in school; introducing them to new practices, rules, and ways of life; and engaging in efforts to ensure opportunities for positive interaction and exchange between immigrant and native-born citizens are some of the key ways in which the burdens of migration may be attenuated.
We have identified seven specific areas in which innovative work is being done to support immigrants’ orientation to new societies: pre-migration information; parenting support in the new land; adult mentoring; educational pathway knowledge; citizenship information; employment information; and health services information. Federal and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses in countries all over the world are developing promising practices in each of these areas.
The migration process begins long before people depart from their native countries. Individuals and families must take significant steps to prepare for the journey and new life ahead—including emotional and psychological preparation and well as dealing with practical and financial tasks. Sending and receiving countries can facilitate the complex process of leaving one’s native country and starting anew in a different society by helping migrants learn about their new country in advance of their arrival. In some cases, governments work collaboratively to coordinate pre-migration informational programs. In others, community organizations or local governments take responsibility for working with migrants, often relying on the stories and experiences of previous migrants. There are a variety of strategies that can be used to effectively work with future migrants to prepare them for the challenges of adjusting to a new society. One important approach is to address the needs of migrants by furnishing valuable information prior to departure.
Canada Orientation Abroad is a cornerstone of Canada’s comprehensive immigrant orientation strategy that was developed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the federal agency responsible for immigrant and citizenship affairs. Administered by the International Organization for Migration under Canada’s larger Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program, Canada Orientation Abroad consists of orientation sessions conducted in different sending countries to introduce future immigrants and refugees who have been selected for permanent resident status to what life is like in Canada. Topics include rights and responsibilities, employment, housing, education, living in a multicultural society, and adaptation to Canada. Most sessions are conducted in the participants’ native languages, and women and families are given priority for participation. For more information, see
While many migrants embark on the initial journey alone, migration is frequently a family project. In many cases, adults send for children left behind in their countries of origin after establishing themselves, often after an extended period of separation; in others they form new families in their host countries. Yet in other cases, children accompany parents from the start. Regardless of the circumstances, immigrant parents often need assistance in learning the legal rights and responsibilities of parenting in new societies. In addition, the educational system presents a range of possible challenges for parents unfamiliar with policies, procedures, and expectations of parents and students, and particular support may be required in the area of schooling. Parenting in a country and culture different from the one in which immigrants were raised, socialized, and educated means adjusting to a range of new norms, rules, and values. Proactively working to inform immigrant parents of social and legal expectations, rules, and policies, specifically relating to schooling as well as appropriate forms of discipline, is imperative in order both to avoid significant misunderstandings and potential cultural conflicts and to facilitate faster integration of children and adults into society. Providing support to immigrant parents can be achieved through a variety of means; school-based efforts and programs created by non-governmental organizations and foundations offer valuable examples of how to approach this important aspect of integration.
The Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) is a program developed by a non-governmental organization in conjunction with university researchers. It was designed to help low-income and ethnically diverse parents create positive home learning environments, effectively negotiate school systems, successfully collaborate with school personnel, support their children’s development, and promote college attendance. Implemented in schools across the United States, PIQE consists of a series of parenting classes and workshops that cover topics such as adolescence, positive communication, how to motivate students, and the road to college. Parent programs generally last nine weeks, and courses are offered in the morning and evening for greater flexibility. PIQE classes are taught by credentialed teachers and have been conducted in fourteen different languages. For further information, see http://www.piqe.org/
The Spectrum Migrant Resource Center, a non-governmental organization based in Victoria, Australia offers immigrants a host of services to assist in their settlement and adaptation to life in Australia. The “Parenting in a New Culture” project targeted Chinese, Arab, and Samoan immigrant communities in Australia in order to introduce some of the mainstream Australian parenting norms and practices. Funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Family and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the program aimed to support parents of pre-school age children in these communities through parenting orientation programs and skill development. One major outcome of the project was the development of parenting guidebooks in Chinese, Arabic, and Samoan, as well as in English. For further information, see http://spectrumvic.org.au/
AVANCE-El Paso is a branch of a national program that was started in 1973 to equip low-income parents with skills and resources to support their children’s development in the early years. The El Paso, Texas site, which was recently recognized with an E Pluribus Unum Award as an outstanding immigrant integration initiative, works with predominantly immigrant families and currently operates in 14 schools in the El Paso school district and two in southern New Mexico. Families participate in adult literacy classes and receive parenting education, and the impact on student outcomes has been remarkable. While the majority of AVANCE-El Paso participants are considered “economically disadvantaged,” the children have shown higher standardized test scores, higher high school graduation rates, and higher college enrollment rates than their peers in the district. For further information about AVANCE-El Paso, see http://www.avance.org/
Moving to a new land can be deeply disorienting. Migrants face multiple challenges as they attempt to build lives in new societies. Cultural, social, legal, and bureaucratic expectations and procedures can change dramatically from one country to the next. It may take many months and even years for new arrivals to learn about the explicit and implicit rules of engagement in the new land. Apparently simple tasks such as obtaining a social security number, paying a bill, enrolling a child in school, or applying for a job can be very complicated, particularly when language differences are factored into the equation. Thus, mentoring programs that match residents and citizens with new immigrants can be invaluable in easing the frequently frustrating, bewildering, and often frightening experience of learning about and adjusting to new rules, policies, and expectations. Mentoring relationships may take a variety of forms and may be established through workplaces, religious institutions, or government or community programs. Beyond their instrumental contributions to immigrant integration, mentoring programs can also be a powerful way to counteract the loneliness and isolation that can accompany the migratory process and may serve to connect local citizens and immigrants who would otherwise have few opportunities to interact.
Canada Host Program is another element of the larger integration program developed and supported by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The objective of the Host Program is to help new permanent residents, refugees, and protected persons (those who are granted this status by the Canadian government because of a fear of persecution in their country of origin) overcome the challenges of moving to a new country and adapting to life in Canada. It does so by matching them with volunteers who are familiar with Canadian society and who will help them learn about available services and how to use them, enable them to practice English and French, and show them how to develop employment contacts and participate in community life. Participation in the Host Program is conceptualized as a mutually beneficial experience, and the program literature acknowledges the value to Canadian volunteers of learning about the cultures, languages, and ways of life of people joining their communities. Ultimately, this program aims to facilitate faster political, social, and economic integration of immigrants and refugees, and the federal government works with provinces to implement Host Programs across the country. For further information, see
Navigating the educational system in a new land can be daunting for native-born residents and is only more so for newcomers who have not gone through the system themselves, have limited education, or do not speak the new language. Expecting young people to make important educational decisions about high school entry or college application without their parents’ guidance has significant implications for their life-long trajectories. Yet students from immigrant families the world over must make these decisions without their parents’ help because their parents lack the necessary information to appropriately guide their children through these complicated mazes. Hence, providing immigrant parents with information on educational pathways — for adult learners interested in pursuing educational credentials or new careers, and for parents to help their children navigate complex new educational systems and think about the future — is an important area of intervention. This, however, was an area of our search where there was a particularly glaring gap in programming though we uncovered two interesting examples.
With its publication of informational materials about the Irish education system in six languages for parents of refugee children, Ireland’s Reception and Integration Agency represents one of the leaders in the field of providing information on educational pathways in primary and post-primary education to new immigrant families, recognizing the importance of this as part of the integration project. For further information, see http://www.ria.gov.ie/en/RIA/Pages/Publications
The ¡Si se Puede! (Yes We Can!) initiative http://www.cuny.edu/sisepuede is a website that was developed by Professor Robert Smith in conjunction with the Mexican consulate in New York and the City University of New York. It specifically targets Mexican immigrant college applicants and their families, providing explicit information about the application process and information relevant to non-citizens, as well as scholarships available to Mexican nationals.
What it means to be a citizen may vary greatly across different national contexts. The idea of citizenship can refer to questions of legal status or to more symbolic understandings of membership in a society or community, regardless of legal status. Providing immigrants with explicit information about the steps required to access legal citizenship is a critical part of the integration process; however, broader conceptualizations of citizenship that recognize other types of information helpful in facilitating immigrants’ transitions to new ways of social life are also incredibly valuable. Governments and community organizations have taken a variety of approaches to responding to the question of citizenship information, and the range of strategies designed to support immigrants’ integration into civic life reflects the diversity in the understanding of what it means to be a citizen.
Femmes du Relais du 20ème is a non-governmental organization that works in neighborhoods across Paris to support various aspects of immigrant women’s integration. One project designed around medical and health practices exemplifies the range of topics that may fall under certain societies’ conceptions of key citizenship information. Each year, the Femmes du Relais du 20ème works with local governments to put on day-long workshops in which French medical professionals learn about traditional infant care practices found in various immigrant cultures while immigrant women receive information about Western medicine and how it can help improve childcare practices. Identifying some of the normative health practices and beliefs in a host society and viewing this information as relevant to successful integration satisfies one of the informational needs that many immigrants bring with them to new societies. For further information, see
Educating immigrants about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in Canada constitutes a key aspect of the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program. Community organizations, such as local branches of the YMCA, receive support from the Canadian government to conduct workshops and training sessions on a variety of settlement issues. Among the “Newcomer Information Sessions” conducted by YMCA branches across Ontario during the 2008-2009 school year, two separate workshops were dedicated to Canadian citizenship and Canadian law. Including explicit information about the legal procedures associated with applying for citizenship as part of initial settlement and integration supports is a powerful way to introduce the idea of citizenship to new immigrants early on in their experience and to help them plan for their future in their new country. For further information, see
The city of Littleton, Colorado has created an innovative mentorship program that matches community volunteers with immigrants preparing to take the United States citizenship examination. The program has been successful on many fronts, boasting a nearly perfect pass rate and achieving considerable advances in improving cultural understanding. Through its design, the program works simultaneously toward the goals of supporting immigrants’ efforts to integrate and attain citizenship and of providing opportunities for native residents and immigrants to interact in informal and social settings. The product of extensive coordination among civic and government leaders, this initiative is a testament to the importance of collaboration across a range of government agencies and community programs to fostering integration. For further information about the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative, see www.connectingimmigrants.org
Searching for suitable employment can be one of the most stressful and difficult tasks that immigrants encounter when arriving in a new country. This is true for low-skilled immigrants with limited formal education as well as for highly educated immigrants whose credentials might not easily translate in alternate professional settings. Providing assistance to immigrants who are eager to enter the marketplace can be a mutually beneficial endeavor by simultaneously supporting immigrant integration and increasing their economic contributions to society. Activities that help immigrants tap into employment networks and professional associations can provide the critical linkages necessary to finding a suitable job. In addition, services that work with professionals on questions of degree transfer and accreditation are essential in order to counteract the widespread underemployment that many immigrants experience. Seeking employment is often the driving force behind migration decisions, and successful integration may hinge on new residents’ ability to access job opportunities that allow them to support their families and establish a life in their new land.
The Maytree-Alterna Savings Immigrant Employment Loan Program provides credit for newcomers for up to one year to facilitate their finding professional employment. The maximum loan considered is $5,000, and funds can be used to cover assessment of credentials, examination costs, books and materials, and professional association membership fees. Funded by Maytree, a Canadian foundation that supports a range of integration and poverty-reduction initiatives, the loan program constitutes one element in the foundation’s broader strategy to reduce the underutilization of immigrants’ talents and skills. Maytree also works in multiple cities across Canada to help train business leaders and potential employers to increase their capacity for working with and hiring immigrants. For more information, see http://maytree.com/grants/maytree-grants
Upwardly Global is a non-governmental organization with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. It works with highly qualified immigrant professionals from a variety of fields, including business, financial services, engineering, and healthcare, to find placements in the labor market. Upwardly Global provides myriad services, including employment workshops, job placement services, mentoring, and connections to a wide employer network. For more information, see http://www.upwardlyglobal.org/
Like other bureaucratic systems, health care policies and practices in a new country may be completely foreign to immigrants. Health-related questions can quickly become matters of life and death, and as such, receiving societies must take it upon themselves to work with immigrant communities to introduce and explain new processes and regulations so that they are able to access the services they need when they need them most. The range of health care options and providers in some countries may be dizzying, but furnishing immigrants with concise information on their rights and how to access health care is of critical importance and should be understood as an essential part of an overall integration strategy.
SPIRASI (Spiritan Asylum Services Initiative) is a humanitarian non-governmental organization that works with survivors of torture, asylum seekers, refugees, and other disadvantaged migrant groups in Ireland to foster self-reliance and integration into Irish society. The Health Information and Promotion program is dedicated to providing health information to asylum seekers through a peer-led approach, using group sessions and individualized discussions. The aim of the program is to equip asylum seekers with the skills and information to be able to seek appropriate health and welfare services. SPIRASI works to achieve this through a life-skills course and a series of workshops that cover such topics as “Accessing health services in the Irish setting,” “Explaining the benefits of screening/health assessment,” “Defining the roles and responsibilities of health care providers,” “Understanding welfare entitlements,” “Explaining the importance of ante- and post-natal care for pregnant women,” and “Creating awareness about Irish norms when using the health services in Ireland.” For more information, see http://spirasi.ie
The Calgary Chinese Community Services Association has created a women’s health educational program to respond to some of the specific health issues in the lives of immigrant women. CCCSA partners with other local agencies and organizations, including the Calgary Public Library, the Calgary Board of Education, and the Adult Learning Program at the YWCA, to offer women’s health workshops on issues such as breast cancer awareness and cervical cancer screening, and to refer women to available health and support services. For more information, see http://www.cccsa.ca/
In addition to finding employment, access to housing is one of the most urgent and immediate issues that immigrants face upon arrival in a new country. Accounts of housing discrimination against immigrants are widespread, and the high cost of rent in many gateway cities often results in immigrants resorting to unsafe living conditions in order to reduce the expense. Remarkably few initiatives exist to respond to the severe challenges that many new arrivals face in finding affordable housing options. In fact, we were unable to find any examples of programs or policies explicitly designed around questions of housing for immigrants. Housing opportunities and integration are inextricably linked, and assisting immigrants in locating affordable and adequate places to live stands to reduce some of the geographical isolation and segregation that hinders successful integration from occurring.
While not directly linked to accessing affordable housing, the work of the Latino Community Credit Union merits mention for its success in providing affordable, full-service financial products and services to immigrants and other individuals outside the banking system. Created in 2000 in Durham, North Carolina, the Credit Union dedicates itself to reaching low-income immigrant families who have been excluded from financial institutions due to language barriers, limited education, or cultural mistrust. Since its founding, the Latino Community Credit Union has brought 51,000 people into the financial mainstream and has grown to become the fourth largest community development credit union in the United States. Through its comprehensive bilingual financial education program, the Credit Union has reached more than 9,755 low-income immigrants hampered by language barriers, limited education, or cultural distrust of financial institutions. By identifying a gap in the marketplace and developing supports and services that meet immigrants’ needs, the Latino Community Credit Union has made an invaluable contribution to integration efforts. Additional focus on financial institutions and their potential to support immigration integration is needed. For more information about the Latino Community Credit Union, see www.latinoccu.org
Immigrants bring with them a wide range of skills and talents, and their educational backgrounds and linguistic fluency varies as greatly as their geographic and ethnic origins. Regardless of an individual’s personal, professional, or educational background, many stand to benefit from access to educational opportunities. The concept of adult education may be broadly defined and can include instruction aimed at facilitating new language development, courses to strengthen or develop literacy skills in new and/or native languages, and vocational training to help people learn new, marketable job skills and competencies or transfer existing skills to different occupational spheres. Providing these kinds of services is a fundamental part of many successful integration programs, as language competence, literacy, and professional skills are critical to achieving integration. Adult education should be built into all integration efforts, as without these opportunities, immigrants may be at risk for exclusion from key sectors of a society and its economy.
Learning a new language is one of the most difficult but also most crucial tasks that immigrants face when moving to a new country. Developing comprehension as well as competence in speaking is key to achieving integration across multiple domains: economic, social, cultural, civic, and more. The degree to which host countries provide new immigrants with free and low-cost opportunities to develop new language skills varies tremendously, with some societies making language courses widely available and others providing more limited and often insufficient options. The material and symbolic importance of assisting immigrants in developing new language skills cannot be overestimated. Programs created to facilitate this process can serve the dual and complementary purposes of providing adult education and supporting integration.
The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees sponsors a program called Easy-access Courses for Women, a series of seminars run by community organizations across the country designed to assist female immigrants in acquiring German language skills — a critical part of the country’s larger integration project — as well as to introduce a variety of aspects of social life in Germany. This internationally recognized program targets new immigrant women who live in social isolation, tackling their language needs of while also offering them a way out of isolation in culturally appropriate settings. Courses are organized at local elementary schools, kindergartens, and day care centers and all instructors are women. For more information, see http://www.integration-in-deutschland.de
The Municipal Department of Integration and Diversity in Vienna, Austria has developed Mama Lernt Deutsch or “Moms Learn German,” a program offering immigrant mothers German language courses in their children’s schools. Funded by the local government and implemented by organizations with extensive experience teaching German, the program was conceived as a way of providing convenient language instruction to immigrant women for a small fee. Like many integration initiatives built around language development, the course does much more than just teach German skills. It is a space for social interaction, and the programs include various excursions around the city to introduce participants to different institutions, services, and life in Vienna. The courses also cover topics such as schooling and health. Free childcare is provided. For further information, see
Queens Libraries, one of the three independent library systems in New York City, has supported one of the longest-standing local programs to attract a heterogeneous immigrant clientele and engage immigrant families in literacy-building activities. Since 1977, Queens Libraries has run the New Americans Program, which provides literacy and English language classes to adults and homework assistance to children. The libraries have continually adapted their programs to meet immigrants’ changing needs, and they offer computer workshops in multiple languages, online portals to immigrant social services, and courses on civic engagement and citizenship, among other activities. Circulating more than 23 million books, videos, music, and other library items in 70 languages, Queens Libraries promotes literacy in its many forms and in the different languages of the diverse communities it serves. For more information, see www.queenslibrary.org
Like developing language skills, finding employment that pays a living wage is an essential stage in the most basic form of integration: becoming an active and productive member of a new society. Some immigrants arrive with high levels of education and professional skills, yet are unable to find jobs; others have less training and fewer marketable skills. In both cases, adults require support to strengthen and transfer existing skills or to develop new vocational expertise in order to access high quality jobs in a different marketplace. Vocational training programs offer all adults, immigrants and non-immigrants alike, the opportunity to expand their skills and competencies in order to be more competitive and qualified job candidates. Initiatives to support vocational training may come from any level of government or through the efforts of non-governmental organizations. As countries all over the world struggle to transition workers to a new economic reality, programs that support adult education and vocational training will become increasingly important for all members of society, immigrants included. Given the centrality of accessing work in the process of successful immigrant adaptation and integration, we were surprised by the limited number of programs dedicated to vocational training for immigrants that we found in our research.
The Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, in Calgary, Canada provides a range of vocational and employment access training to women who have prior office administration experience. The program aims to prepare immigrant women to qualify for entry-level office positions, to facilitate their re-entry into the labor force, and to build their confidence and self-sufficiency. Specialized training in accounting and reception consists of a six-week series of courses that covers basic skills and workplace expectations as well as an introduction to the major software packages required for many positions. For further information, see http://www.ciwa-online.com
Some immigrant parents have limited educational experiences and thus may have difficulty reading and writing in their own native language. In addition to the obvious challenges this presents them with in their own lives, it makes it difficult for these parents to support their children in their educational journeys. Programs that support the development of parental literacy indirectly support student achievement by role-modeling the value of education and by involving parents in their children's schooling.
The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) is a national program that has served over one million families across the United States. It takes a family literacy approach that is based on the premise that parents and children learn best when learning together. Parents and children build essential skills together, and the benefits of this program reach multiple generations as literacy development acts as a catalyst to improve academic achievement. Finding that many of the families who sought out their services were of immigrant origin, NCFL worked in collaboration with the Center for Applied Linguistics to develop a specialized curriculum for English language learners. Parenting for Academic Success: A Curriculum for Families Learning English is an innovative adult education curriculum designed for beginning English language learning parents with children in preschool through third grade. The curriculum simultaneously builds parents’ English skills while they support their children’s literacy development. Parents learn and review concepts in the classroom and then practice those skills at home so that they can help their children succeed at school. For more information, see www.famlit.org
The successful integration of the children of immigrants into the educational systems of their receiving countries is one of the most important and fundamental challenges of our time. Understanding the specific needs that different immigrant populations face vis-à-vis the education system is critical in order to determine appropriate interventions. Given the diversity of the immigrant student populations entering schools in many different countries, it is clear that a one-size-fits-all model will not work. However, a number of key factors have emerged in the cross-national research as demonstrating positive implications for the schooling performance and educational integration of immigrant students; these factors have guided our search for promising school-based practices.
For many immigrant youth, the excitement and challenges of transitioning to a new society play out in the hallways, cafeterias, and classrooms of school buildings. Newcomer youth may face substantial language barriers, social isolation, and difficulty understanding and adjusting to new teaching styles and academic expectations. In response, school districts in many parts of the world have begun to adopt strategies designed to meet the specific needs of newcomer students. Special schools and programs within schools have been developed to support newcomer students and create a community of peers who are experiencing the dramatic transition to a new educational system, a new culture, and a new language. Some schools and programs serve newcomer students for a short period of time, working toward the goal of moving them into a mainstream school; other schools serve these students for multiple years with the same academic offerings as the other schools in the district. Many of these schools and programs have developed innovative pedagogical methods that could be useful to all schools and teachers working with immigrant students and second language learners. They should be looked to as exemplary practices in the education of newcomer students and in other educational areas.
The Belmont High School Newcomer Center in Los Angeles, California offers full-day classes for English language learner (ELL) students and optional half-day summer and winter sessions to help accelerate language development. Students’ primary languages are used to improve their comprehension, and the program’s curriculum is aligned with the mainstream academic curriculum to minimize the loss of academic content in the process of language learning. Serving newly arrived immigrants ages 13 to 18 in grades nine through eleven, the Belmont High School Newcomer Center admits students on a rolling basis for a period of up to three semesters before they transition to mainstream classes and schools.
The International Schools Network. Started over a quarter century ago, the mission of Internationals Network is to provide high quality, public education for newly arrived immigrant students through a unique educational model based on exploration of interdisciplinary academic content in linguistically heterogeneous, learner-centered environments. Serving over 7000 students from 119 countries speaking 93 languages these 22 schools in New York, California, and Washington, D.C. the Internationals’ four-year graduation rate is 65 percent (compared to New York City’s 33 percent for the comparable English language learning student population and 52 percent for the general student population.) Their seven-year graduation rate is even more impressive — 90 percent of the Internationals’ students go on to college. The classes are small and the learning environment is intimate and learner-centered. Instruction is project based, and the curriculum is interdisciplinary, incorporating performance-based assessments. Within the classrooms, students are grouped heterogeneously by language and academic ability, working collaboratively on content-based tasks in a language-rich environment. (Also see Focus on New Language Development below.) Teachers work in teams developing courses of study for the same small group of students. Language instruction is incorporated into all classes as all teachers in the school have language development expertise. The Internationals Network’s exceptional success rate and strategy for scaling-up earned it a 2009 E Pluribus Unum Prize award from the Migration Policy Institute for Exceptional Immigrant Integration Initiatives. See http://www.migrationinformation.org/integrationawards/
For some newcomer immigrant youth, arrival in a new country coincides with their first opportunity to attend school or their return to school after a prolonged absence. These students, commonly referred to as “students with interrupted formal education” (SIFE) may have significant gaps in their learning, and their skill levels often do not correspond to their age. Age-graded classrooms may not be the most appropriate placement for these students, and instead, they may require more creative solutions for their academic needs. As the number of war refugees, persons holding political asylum, and immigrants escaping persecution and economic deprivation continues to rise, the number of SIFE students grows and host countries are being forced to respond by thinking about students in new ways and developing innovative approaches to education.
The Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School in New York City serves non-traditional students ages 17 to 21 in a model designed to provide SIFE students with expanded learning opportunities. The school offers flexible scheduling in order to allow for accelerated skills development and credit accumulation, with accommodations for adult life demands (such as work, childcare, and family responsibilities.) Classes run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday–Thursday and Sunday, and students can enroll in either daytime or evening instruction. In addition to extensive language support, the school offers weekend academic programs and a comprehensive summer school. Working in partnership with a community-based organization, the school also provides social and psychological services, employment counseling, and college admission support to all students. For more information, see http://www.mcndhs.com
The Toronto District School Board created the Literacy Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP) for students ages 11–16 who did not have the opportunity to attend school regularly before arriving in Canada. LEAP offers these students a chance to gain English language, literacy, and mathematics skills so that they can catch up to other students their age and eventually integrate into the mainstream program. The Toronto District School Board offers LEAP in over 40 elementary schools, as well as in 15 secondary schools, and the program has been shown to help some students make gains of at least two grade levels in one academic year. For further information, see http://www.tdsb.on.ca/
Some of the fiercest debates about immigration center on the question of children’s language development. Cross-country comparisons of good practice demonstrate that it is important to make “long-term investments in systematic language support” (Christensen & Stanat, 2007, p. 2) as well as to provide pre-service and professional development training for teachers in order to help them appropriately support their English language learner students. Although ideology often competes with scientific evidence in determining how children should be taught to develop new language skills, some efforts are demonstrating real promise in facilitating language acquisition. The diversity of political and ideological climates means that in each country certain programs are more or less likely to be adopted, regardless of their proven effectiveness. However, innovative approaches are being developed in divergent contexts and offer a range of options worthy of study and emulation.
The British Colombia Ministry of Education’s approach to new language development has been highly touted by experts in many fields (for example, see Christensen & Stanat, 2007). At the primary level, the focus is on immersion with up to six hours per week of systematic language support. At the secondary level, new immigrants participate in a three-phase preparation program divided into reception, transition, and integration, before they move to mainstream instruction. At each level of schooling, teachers receive specialized training to prepare them to provide high quality academic and language instruction. For further information, see http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/esl/
Immigrants, adults and youth alike possess valuable skills and talents that are frequently overlooked and undervalued by their host society. Fluency in multiple languages is a prime example, and language loss may produce negative consequences in public and private, social and economic, and political and cultural spheres. Recently, a number of people have begun to pay attention to the impact of heritage language loss and have dedicated resources to developing programs to combat this disturbing phenomenon. What had previously been restricted to private language schools and community-based efforts has now become part of the work of many school districts and government programs. Proficiency in multiple languages is all but required in the current global era, and societies must take responsibility for promoting this. Building on immigrants’ existing abilities is an important step toward ensuring the development of a successful global citizenry.
The French Language Heritage Program, created in 2005 by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, teaches French language, literature, and culture to students of Francophone background enrolled in New York City public schools. Designed with the objectives of helping these students develop proficiency in French reading comprehension, writing, and oral expression, the program also works to support students’ ethnic identity formation in the context of a multicultural, multiethnic environment. Ultimately, the French Language Heritage Program aims to equip these students with skills and confidence in their native language that will help them succeed academically in other languages as well. For further information, see
The Enseignement des langues d’origine (Program for Native Language Instruction) was launched in Quebec in 1977 in an effort to offer heritage instruction to immigrant youth outside of regular class time. Heritage language classes are made available to students before and after school as well as during lunch periods. Through this program, school districts have recognized the importance of nurturing immigrant students’ first language fluency and providing immigrant-origin youth with opportunities to learn their parents’ native languages. This recognition does not go unnoticed or unappreciated by immigrants in the community who have seen their own languages being valued. For further information, see http://csdm.ca/autres-services/pelo/
The education of children of immigrants must been understood by every educator and support staff member in the school building as a priority and a responsibility in order to effectively educate and integrate all immigrant-origin youth. To achieve this, considerable structural and cultural shifts are often needed in the orientation and organization of schooling. When the instruction of immigrant-origin children is understood as residing exclusively in the domain of a small cohort of second language instructors, as is typically the case, the rest of the school community may not feel sufficiently involved in ensuring these students’ academic success. These students’ needs go beyond solely second language development to include cultural adaptation, social support, and assistance in general academic subjects. Therefore, schools should provide ongoing professional development to all faculty and staff in the building on how to work with immigrant origin children in their classrooms and schools. Just as teachers across the academic disciplines are being called on to learn how to incorporate literacy-building activities into their lessons, the same must be true for taking on the education of immigrant-origin students as a school-wide endeavor. School personnel may also require education in effectively communicating with parents of different national, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and this too must be incorporated into school professional development planning.
The Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), a non-governmental organization based in California, leads workshops for teachers to help them learn how to work with immigrant parents. Schools and school districts contract with PIQE to lead six-hour workshops to train instructors on how present school as a valuable and welcoming community asset for families. In the course of the workshops, teachers receive strategies to enable them to bridge language and cultural gaps, and they are instructed on how to utilize cultural differences to a child’s advantage. Workshop participants learn to interact with parents from various educational, economic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds and are offered suggestions on how to address parents’ misgivings and misconceptions about the educational system. For further information, see http://www.piqe.org/ (See also ➢ Support for Parenting in the New Land above.)
At Family Life Academy Charter School, an elementary school in the Bronx, New York serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade, teachers and school staff receive workshops throughout the year on how to work with English language learner students. Since over 40 percent of the student body is classified as ELL, the majority in the lower grades, all teachers receive instruction in a variety of strategies to meet these students’ needs. Professional development covers topics such as the stages of ELL students’ language acquisition, myths about second language acquisition, and specific classroom activities that correspond to each stage of language development. According to the school principal, good pedagogy for ELL students is really good pedagogy for all students, and therefore teachers are encouraged to apply what they learn in workshops about ELL students to their practice more generally. For more information about Family Life Academy Charter School, go to http://www.flacsnyc.com/index.jsp
Over the course of the last two decades, higher educational credentials have become basic requirements for entry into the skilled labor market. Awareness of the importance of acquiring post-secondary credentials and of the process it takes to access post-secondary educational opportunities is a key issue related to the successful integration and education of children of immigrants. However, navigating the maze of colleges, universities, and vocational and technical programs that exist in different societies is no easy task. There are a host of possible explanations for immigrant students’ limited college pathway knowledge, and these include the varying degrees of complexity of the college/university system (depending upon the host country), language factors, and unfamiliarity with university education (depending upon the educational attainment of the family members.) These factors, coupled with the high cost of post-secondary education in many post-industrial nations, either in the form of tuition or in deferred household income, makes it critically important to assist immigrant families with the process of searching for schools, applying for admissions, and securing grants and loans. Without such assistance, a generation of youth may end up undereducated, underemployed, and unable to participate in the global economy and society. Schools, the most likely information site, often fail dismally to provide information to immigrant parents and students. Thus, a promising site for intervention is partnerships with community organizations.
While there are few examples of initiatives specifically directed at enhancing immigrant students’ college literacy and access, one program, the PALMS (Post-secondary Access for Latino Middle-grades Students) Project addresses a number of important and related issues. Created as a partnership between the Education Development Center, LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) National Educational Service Centers, and the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, the PALMS Project works to improve the life chances of Latino youth by increasing their participation in post-secondary education. Focusing on youth ages 10 to 14 — a critical period for students to develop the knowledge and skills to succeed in high school and beyond, the PALMS Project has developed resources to assist educators in promoting Latino post-secondary enrollment by improving communication strategies and outreach to families. The PALMS website offers a variety of ideas and supports for practitioners, and the PALMS Toolkit for School Leaders includes a host of materials to facilitate increased school-family collaboration to ensure Latino youth’s eligibility and access to post-secondary education. For further information, see http://www.palmsproject.net/
Summer learning loss represents a serious obstacle to all children’s academic progress. Research has demonstrated the increased risks for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and second language learners may experience even greater losses in the area of new language development during the summer. A three-month gap in language instruction may cause significant setbacks for these (typically immigrant) students and can have implications for the timing of their transition to mainstream classrooms. Summer enrichment activities offer immigrant youth opportunities to reduce summer learning loss as well as to participate in positive social activities, thus fostering integration in multiple areas.
The Project Alerta Summer Program, Alerta Verano, is a four-week program run by the University of Massachusetts Institute for Learning and Teaching that offers summer enrichment to Latino and ELL students from the Boston Public Schools. This program is designed to minimize summer learning loss and help these students prepare to take the challenging entrance examination for Boston’s most competitive public schools. Students in grades three through five receive a full day of academic instruction in math, writing, reading, and creative arts that combines a rigorous curriculum with fun and engaging activities. Experienced teachers from the Boston Public Schools system serve as the primary instructors and graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Massachusetts-Boston work as teaching assistants. This program represents an inventive collaboration among universities, community organizations, and local public schools to fill a major gap in the existing social services, and it serves as a model for future partnerships that are needed to address issues in multiple domains. For more information about Alerta Verano, see
The Arlington County Public School system in Virginia offers a High Intensity Language Training in the summer for English language learner students in high school. This summer program is based on a High Intensity Language Training that immigrant students participate in during the academic year, and it consists of a sequence of classes developed to facilitate students’ transition into mainstream academic courses by preventing summer learning loss. Instructors work to ensure that ELL students attain English proficiency while meeting state standards by integrating language skill development with content area instruction. For further information, see http://www2.apsva.us/Page/1
The importance of family involvement in children’s education has been well substantiated in the research literature.. Immigrant children’s need for parent involvement and support may be particularly acute, given that they are simultaneously adapting to a new country, a new educational system, and, often, a new language. Parent involvement comes in a variety of forms, ranging from providing children with a quiet place to work at home to regularly visiting school and interacting with teachers. Societal expectations for parent involvement are generally assumed rather than explicitly articulated, and those who fail to exhibit certain behaviors may be deemed uncaring or uninvolved parents. In some cultures, for example, the idea that parents would frequently engage with their children’s teachers and make inquiries or requests is completely foreign, and the concept of parent involvement is generally restricted to home-based activities. In others, failure to participate actively in school events is taken to indicate lack of interest in their children’s education. Immigrant parents may require additional guidance and support in order to learn about and incorporate new (expected) practices into their parenting repertoire. Facilitating parent involvement in schools benefits children and helps reduce the inaccurate stereotyping of immigrant parents’ commitment to their children’s education.
The Montgomery County Public School ESOL Parent Center in Rockville, Maryland, offers a comprehensive model for engaging immigrant parents and establishing strong links between them and their children’s schools. The Parent Center provides parents with an orientation to the Montgomery County Public Schools system and includes a specific focus on the ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) and bilingual programs. In addition, staff at the Parent Center assists parents in completing required school forms. Furthermore, the Parent Center offers parents interpretation services for parent-teacher conferences and school- and system-wide meetings. An additional strength of this center lies in the fact that it serves as a community resource for parents, providing information about services in the community within and beyond the educational system.
At Family Life Academy Charter School, establishing strong home-school partnerships is a central part of the school’s mission, and a sizeable part of the school budget is dedicated to engaging with families. The principal and school personnel understand that there are different levels of parent involvement and that parents may engage with schools in multiple ways. Building on their knowledge of the challenges that parents face in their daily lives, the school administration works to provide a variety of opportunities for parents to learn about their children’s academic progress and how to support them, and it employs a range of communication strategies. There is a part-time parent engagement officer whose child is enrolled at the school, and he or she serves as an important point of contact for parents. In addition, the principal hosts parent workshops that offer tips on what they can do to help their children at home, and she holds them at different times in order to accommodate parents’ work schedules. In order to encourage parents to attend these workshops, the school awards prizes such as books and CD players to families. Family Life Academy Charter School has developed a series of initiatives to support and engage parents in ways that are sensitive to their realities, and as a result, the school has been successful in creating unique and enriching partnerships between home and school. For more information about Family Life Academy Charter School, go to http://www.flacsnyc.com/index.jsp
The Toronto Public Schools, winner of the 2008 Carl Bertelsmann Foundation Award for its outstanding commitment to equity in education, places the involvement of immigrant parents at the center of its educational policy initiatives. Forging an alliance with parents became a central component of the Toronto Public Schools’ strategy beginning in the mid-1970’s following a rapid demographic growth that dramatically diversified the city of Toronto. Funds were invested to cover the costs of translators and interpreters for 70 different languages in order to facilitate communication between parents and members of the school community. A “Board of Community Workers,” consisting of individuals of diverse immigrant backgrounds, was hired by the district to engage in community outreach. A series of “Parents’ Conventions on Education” was held to actively engage parents, hear their concerns and needs, and provide them with information. The district also developed an International Language Program within the context of the school system which taught children their parents’ heritage languages. Parents are actively involved in the hiring of instructors and they are encouraged to make suggestions about textbooks and reference materials. In this school district, diversity is viewed as a strength and not as a deficit. Another way in which parents and families are involved is in the exchange of information about post-secondary choices. Thus, at all levels of the educational process, the district treats parents as respected partners in their children’s education, and language is not allowed to become an insurmountable barrier. For further information, see http://www.tdsb.on.ca/
Regardless of parents’ preferred form of involvement, keeping them abreast of their children’s academic progress, sharing important notices and events, and communicating information about school policies is one of the most critical ways that school districts can work to promote parent involvement. In many cases, however, immigrant parents face substantial challenges to engaging with their children’s school and understanding the information they receive, not the least of which are language and communication barriers. Efforts to provide professional, culturally-relevant translation and interpretation services can go a long way in improving home-school relationships, bolstering communication, and increasing immigrant families’ sense of comfort with their children’s school. Ultimately, children can benefit tremendously when their parents are well-informed about their education, but this only happens when parents have access to the information they need to support their children and intervene when necessary.
The Translation and Interpretation Unit at the New York City Department of Education constitutes an essential part of the Department’s language access initiative. It aims to enhance the New York City schools’ ability to communicate with and better engage limited English proficient parents of schoolchildren. The Translation and Interpretation Unit provides schools and offices with an internal resource for accessing written translation and oral interpretation services in the eight most commonly spoken languages in the homes of New York City children: Arabic, Bengali, Haitian Creole, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu. Schools and offices may make on-demand requests for services, and translations and interpretations may occur in person, over the telephone, or in printed document form. For further information, see http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/Translation/default.htm
Increasingly, it is recognized that students with high needs require greater support in order to be successful in school. The highly lauded “Harlem miracle” was achieved by the Harlem Children’s Zone in part through the provision of wrap-around services, which include advisory groups, after-school academic supports, and health services (along with rigorous teaching) to students from high-risk backgrounds (see Harlem Children’s Zone, 2008; Tough, 2008). Immigrant students often live in high poverty, high violence neighborhoods45 and attend far from optimal schools, and thus may benefit from the same supports as other high-need students.
Stichting Witte Tulp. (White Tulip Foundation) is an educational organization with six branches located in Amsterdam and its surrounding areas. The foundation organizes activities for students in primary and secondary education with the aim of providing opportunities for them to develop their talents and skills as widely as possible. By involving parents, teachers, and over 150 volunteers (many who started as protégés and returned as mentors), Witte Tulp provides intensive tutoring to over 600 pupils (from age seven through late adolescence), nearly 60 percent of who are of Turkish origin. Witte Tulp strongly emphasizes the self-development of its pupils tackling educational disadvantages and the prevention of early school drop out. It also promotes the engagement of parents in the development of their children. Education, ambition, social engagement, citizenship, and self-fulfillment are crucial concepts in the organization’s vision. Since 1997, the White Tulip Foundation has evolved from a small project that started in a student’s home to a large-scale organization providing homework support, subject tutoring, intensive training to prepare for the CITO high stakes exam, as well as counseling for educational pathway decisions. The program has been received an award from Princess Máxima of the Netherlands in recognition of its contributions to society. For further information, see http://www.stichtingwittetulp.nl/
While our search did not yield specific examples unique to immigrants under each of these categories, we did find two examples of sites that provide some of these services in combination and that serve high populations of immigrant students. Below we describe the significance of each type of practice and discuss the two innovative sites.
➢ Advisory groups have grown increasingly common in schools in the United States as a method of creating more personalized school environments, connecting individual students with an adult advisor, and fostering the development of supportive student communities. Advisory groups may be particularly valuable for immigrant youth by offering a space to discuss the challenges of adapting to a new school and a new society, as well as by providing opportunities for these students to develop friendships with other immigrant youth and non-immigrant peers. Advisory groups also foster opportunities for mentorship between teachers and students. They should be incorporated into existing efforts to support immigrant students, and curricula that explicitly address questions of the adaptation and integration process should be included.
➢ Like summer enrichment, after-school academic programs provide immigrant students who may be struggling with language obstacles and facing challenges adjusting to new curricula, pedagogy, and expectations with additional opportunities to hone language skills and receive more personalized assistance with school work. Immigrant parents dealing with similar language challenges are often unable to help their children academically, and the cost of private tutoring can be prohibitive. The school day alone rarely gives these students enough time to catch up with their peers; school-based after-school academic programs, in which teachers work with immigrant students individually or in small groups, represent a critical resource that may make all the difference in a student’s academic trajectory.
➢ Adding health services to existing educational services is another powerful way to enhance the ability of schools to promote immigrant integration. It is important to recognize that students come to schools with needs that transcend the academic sphere alone. When schools are furnished with resources to deal with the range of issues students bring with them — physical, emotional, and psychological — they are better able to set up their students for success academically.
The Children’s Aid Society adopts an exemplary approach to meeting the intense and varied needs of children and families in struggling communities, and it has been a leader in the field of social services for over 150 years. Currently serving more than 150,000 children and their families at more than 45 sites throughout New York City, the organization’s efforts to support healthy families and promote positive child development begins before birth with prenatal counseling and continues through high school and beyond with college and job training programs. The Children’s Aid Society’s philosophy is grounded in the belief that every aspect of a child’s development must be addressed as he or she grows, and it thus offers a wide range of services to children and families at each developmental stage. From health care and housing assistance to recreational activities and legal services, the Children’s Aid Society has adopted a full-service, wraparound model — in some cases even working inside schools — to fill in the wide gaps left by an inadequate social safety net. For more information, go to http://www.childrensaidsociety.org/
City Connects is a school-based collaboration between the Boston Public Schools, community agencies, and Boston College that works with over 3,000 elementary-age students in twelve elementary and K–8 schools across the system. The program is focused on strengthening students’ academic skills, building their social-emotional capacity, improving their physical well-being, and reducing barriers to learning. Boston Connects uses an intervention approach, and it begins by identifying each student’s individualized combination of strengths and needs. Subsequently, a student is connected to a customized set of support services. Recognizing the value of integrated and comprehensive student and family support, the program leverages the resources of its broad-based partners to deliver social support and mental health services as well as academic and cultural enrichment opportunities. By identifying and deeply engaging with all of the challenges that disadvantaged children experience, City Connects responds to the needs of the whole child and works to equip students with all of the skills and resources they require to succeed in schools and in society. For further information, see
Schools are often the first — and in some cases the only — point of contact that immigrant students and families have with the world outside their communities. Schools can be transformed into resource centers for immigrant families by providing a range of services that target obstacles impeding educational progress. Supporting successful immigrant integration requires coordination across a wide variety of social sectors. Schools that provide this are well-positioned to serve as a significant engine for integration.
Our country’s growing immigrant population is also reflected in the growing immigrant undergraduate student population. Nearly a quarter of all undergraduate students in the U.S. are immigrants- foreign-born or U.S. born citizens with at least one parent who is foreign-born. Immigrant students face a number of challenges in their pursuit of a postsecondary education, including financial hardships which cause students to work full-time and enroll part-time, family responsibilities, being the first in their families to go to college, learning English as a second language (ESL), and having limited college preparation. Therefore immigrant college students often require additional supports such as financial assistance or low-cost tuition rates, or ESL and developmental education. This makes postsecondary institutions critical sites for the economic and educational success of immigrant populations. Because of the hardships faced by immigrant students and the concentration of immigrant populations in various communities across the country, immigrant students are more likely to be enrolled in public four-year colleges, community colleges, and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Two of the most prominent and largest immigrant serving MSIs are Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs). Indeed, over half of all immigrant Latino (54%) and Asian (51%) undergraduates are enrolled in community college.Many HSIs and AANAPISIs are community colleges and will often target their MSI federal funds towards developmental education and ESL courses for Latino and Asian American and Pacific Islander students.
The ESL Bridge Cohort Program, which was initially piloted through the financial support from the AANAPISI grant at Coastline Community College in Southern California, adopts an exemplary approach to meeting the needs of Asian and Pacific Islander English language learners that goes beyond the classroom. The ESL Bridge Cohort Program requires students to be enrolled in 12 units and provides student support services through peer mentorship and targeted academic counseling services. After the success of the AANAPISI-funded ESL Bridge Cohort Program, the program has been absorbed into their regular ESL programs, allowing more students to access it. Visit http://www.coastline.edu/about/aanapisi/#anchor for more information about the AANAPISI program and services and https://www.casas.org/training-and-support/casas-peer-communities/california-accountability/pp/transitions/2012/03/14/cohort for information about the ESL Bridge Cohort Program.
Postsecondary institutions serving immigrant populations must also consider ways to provide services to support students in and out of college. One example of this is The Gateway Center at Westchester Community College in the state of New York. The Gateway Center provides a one-stop shop approach to student support services for immigrant populations, providing ESL services, financial literacy, citizenship exam courses and information for new international students related to obtaining visas and work permits. Westchester community college also leads the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE), a national network of community colleges concerned with supporting the needs of immigrant students, which is housed at The Gateway Center. The CCCIE shares data, information, and best practices for serving immigrant populations in community college. More information about the center can be found at http://www.sunywcc.edu/continuing-ed/gateway-center/inside-the-gateway-center/. Visit http://www.cccie.org/ for information about CCCIE.
Institutions should also consider ways to support their undocumented immigrant population, which faces additional challenges to pursuing a postsecondary education (for more information see Teranishi et al., 2015). The AB540 and Undocumented Student Center at the University of California, Davis is a student support center dedicated to empowering and serving AB540 and undocumented students on campus. The AB540 and Undocumented Student Center takes a holistic approach in supporting students by providing mental health services, support with housing, legal support, academic advising, food security, advocacy and outreach, just to name a few, through cross campus partnerships and collaborations. Additionally the center provides a training for educators to better serve undocumented college students, and outreach to high school and transfer students. The AB540 and Undocumented Student Center also has a comprehensive website which provides resources and information about federal, state, and institutional policies that are pertinent for undocumented students. For more information visit http://undocumented.ucdavis.edu/
School-based efforts to support immigrant children’s adaptation, language acquisition, and overall academic progress are critical to ensuring their successful integration and educational achievement. Students spend only part of their time in schools, however, and school-based programs and activities must be complemented and bolstered by additional initiatives to provide immigrant-origin children with academic, social, and emotional support outside of school hours. Given the diverse range of immigrant children’s needs and interests, a variety of government agencies and non-governmental and community organizations may be called upon to provide after-school activities for youth. School-community collaborations in the development of after-school programs represent one way to ensure continuity of instruction and support. Locally-sponsored athletic activities and cultural groups constitute another potential avenue. In fact, the realm of possibilities for engaging youth in after-school activities is endless. The key is paying attention to the critical need for youth services during after-school hours and not squandering the vast opportunity for skill development, identity development, and growth that this time provides.
Many, though of course not all, immigrant youth arrive with strikes against them. Students who live in high poverty neighborhoods, have parents with limited education, attend less than optimal schools, have limited literacy, have had interrupted education, arrive in adolescence, or must learn a new language while taking the usual academic courses must play catch-up in school to keep up with their more privileged peers. Further, immigrant students often do not have parents who can help them with their homework. They also often do not have a computer hooked up to a printer or to the Internet — which increasingly are requisites for completing homework assignments. They may have responsibilities at home to take care of siblings or may not have a quiet place to do homework. Thus, after-school hours can be an invaluable time period in which to receive extra academic support. Space, dedicated time, and a helpful teacher to answer questions can make all the difference in academic success or failure.
Comprehensive Development, Inc (CDI), is a community-based organization that runs the Student Life Center (SLC) inside the building of Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School, a school serving non-traditional students ages 17 to 21, many of them immigrant and specifically students with interrupted formal education (identified as SIFE.) Operating in collaboration with the school’s guidance department, the SLC offers students a range of free, critically-needed services from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily, including tutoring, counseling, college/career prep, health care, legal services, and homelessness prevention. Students are encouraged to drop in any time, and CDI staff work closely with school personnel to identify and address issues in students’ lives and to refer them to outside agencies for additional support and services when necessary. For further information, see http://www.cdi-ny.org/about-us
The Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth has developed a partnership with the Calgary Public Library to set up a drop-in Homework Club at several locations in Calgary. Bilingual staff and volunteers meet immigrant youth in grades one through twelve at the library and assist with them with homework in various school subjects. The program creates an academic and social space where students can simultaneously strengthen academic skills and build friendships. For further information, see http://www.cbfy.ca/
The Stichting Witte Tulp (Witte Tulp Foundation) is an educational organization with six branches located in Amsterdam and its surrounding areas. The foundation strongly emphasizes the self-development of its pupils and organizes activities for students in primary and secondary education to help them develop their talents and skills as widely as possible. By involving parents, teachers, and over 150 volunteers (many who started as protégés and returned as mentors), Witte Tulp provides intensive tutoring to over 600 pupils (from age seven through late adolescence), nearly 60 percent of who are of Turkish origin. The foundation also provides homework support, subject tutoring, and intensive training to prepare for the nation-wide CITO high stakes exam, counseling about educational pathway decisions, as well as club activities, a weekend school, and an annual Science Festival (which attracts 15,000 visitors per year.) Witte Tulp sees their role as serving as a bridge between students, parents, and schools and aim to target educational disadvantages and prevent early school drop-out. For further information, see http://www.stichtingwittetulp.nl/
Extra-curricular activities have long featured prominently in the daily routines of the middle class and the privileged. They are, in fact, crucial to the college application process in the United States. These activities are thought to develop character and to round out the skill sets of individuals. Such activities are often out of reach financially to the less privileged. Further, there is simply no cultural frame to explain the necessity of participating in such activities for some immigrants (though certainly some immigrant groups heavily program their children.) Sports are a typical extra-curricular activity as are arts like music and dance. Researchers have also argued that after-school programming provides opportunities for developing engagement in learning “beyond” basic skills.,Error! Bookmark not defined. This can include skills such as website design and filmmaking, or involvement in civic engagement and community organizing. “Blurring the lines” between the kinds of learning that is done in after-school programming can benefit youth by fostering their curiosity and love of learning, increasing the relevance of their experiences, and ultimately more deeply engaging them in the process of learning.120 After-school programming focused on extra-curricular activities also allows immigrant kids to keep busy, develop skills, participate in activities that begin to level the playing field with their more privileged peers, and foster constructive relationships around shared interests.
The YMCA-YWCA of Canada runs a Newcomer Youth Integration Program that works with newcomer immigrant youth ages 13-17 who have arrived in Canada within the last two years. This recreational program is designed to help these youth integrate into a new society and learn to make healthy and positive life choices by teaching them strategies to cope with the challenges of life in their new surroundings and culture. It also aims to equip newcomer immigrants with leadership skills and knowledge that they will use to assist their communities with integration. The program consists of workshops and activities that build bridges between youth and their community resources, introduce them to volunteer opportunities, and develop their job search skills. For further information, see
The Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre, based in Australia, uses athletic activities as one means to engage immigrant youth in positive developmental activities that support their adaptation and integration. The Refugee Youth Basketball Program is a basketball league with five teams comprised of youth of Somali, Tongan, Vietnamese, Samoan, and Sudanese backgrounds. Playing on a basketball team is the first experience that many of the program’s participants have had with organized team sports — which are taken for granted by many children in Western, post-industrialized nations. The program provides equipment, uniforms, and transportation to participants and has shown promise in combating some of the loneliness and stress that many of these youth experience in the course of the migration and integration process. For further information, see
Some programs are specifically designed to target at-risk populations. These programs typically identify designated “at-risk” populations, setting up collaborations with a wide range of community organizations to help meet their diverse need. Often these programs focus on reducing behaviors like gang participation, dropping out of school, as well as pregnancy.
Programa Escohlas is a program sponsored by the Portuguese government aimed at promoting the social inclusion of disadvantaged children and young people ages 6 to 24, with a particular focus on immigrant youth from impoverished backgrounds. Currently, there are over 120 projects being run in 71 districts across the country. Each project is led by a coordinating institution that directs a consortium of partners ranging from schools and training centers to community associations. Each consortium develops and implements projects in four main areas: (1) school inclusion and non-formal education; (2) professional training and employability; (3) civic and community participation; and (4) digital inclusion. As a result of this collaborative model, over 770 institutions are currently involved in Programa Escohlas. For further information, see
The Newly Arrived Youth Support Service Initiative is a federally-funded program sponsored by Australia’s Department of Families, Housing, Communities and Indigenous Affairs that provides culturally-appropriate support and intervention services to newly-arrived immigrant youth between the ages of 12 and 21 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Providers across the country are contracted to offer a variety of services to the at-risk youth population, including counseling, family mediation, and skills training. The initiative seeks to help these immigrant youth improve their engagement with family, work, education, and their new host society. For further information, see http://www.cmy.net.au/
The immigrant journey requires that youth navigate the culture of both their parents’ homeland and their new homeland. In order to successfully adapt, immigrant youth must understand the rules of engagement of their new country, know the new language, and develop a sense of belonging and loyalty; at the same time, it is important that they not feel alienated from their parents’ cultures and their own roots. When youth are not well grounded in their own culture, parental authority can become weakened and their sense of self out of kilter. For second-generation youth and immigrant children who left very young, the parental homeland may be little more than an abstraction. Native language skills may be rudimentary and native cultural traditions and practices unknown. Thus, after-school activities that support cultural heritage and cultural identity serve an important function.
The African Youth Program at the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia works with African youth ages 14 to 24 to assist in their social, cultural, and academic adjustment to life in Canada. The program consists of a range of activities designed to enhance these immigrant youths’ self-image, confidence, and identity. In addition, the program strives to help African immigrant youth develop their own voice that they can use as leaders and role models in their communities. The African Youth Program combines a focus on integration with cultural and ethnic identity formation and understands identity-building as a key element of successful youth integration. For further information, see http://www.issbc.org/prim-nav/programs/Settlement-Services
The Ethnic Youth Council, facilitated by the Spectrum Migrant Resource Center in Australia, is comprised of young people ages 15 to 25 who seek to become community leaders and youth advocates to address issues in the lives of young Australians, particularly migrant and refugee youth. The Council serves as a forum for young leaders to discuss issues and ideas, organize events, and advocate for changes to better meet the cultural and social needs of young immigrant and refugee members of their communities. For further information, see http://spectrumvic.org.au/youth_services/
Immigrant students are often the first in their families to attend college in the new land and may even be the first in their families to attend college at all. Alongside other potentially issues such as language barriers and interrupted schooling, this can contribute to a lack of preparedness for college. College readiness programs can play an important role for young people in this situation. These programs often provide a broad array of supports including academic, financial and personal preparation. Academic preparation may focus on intensive tutoring or college-level classes (such as AP classes in the US). Support with financial preparedness can include proving information about potential financial supports as well as help completing complex financial aid applications (where a US example is the FAFSA form). Finally, personal preparation can be assisted via mentoring and through building relationships with positive role models, potentially other immigrant youth who are already college students or graduates. One important implication of improved college preparedness is that it can reduce the need for remedial education in college, which can substantially increase time to degree and is a key factor predicting a lower likelihood of graduating. College readiness programs that start when the young people are still in middle school or at the beginning of high school can thus have important beneficial ramifications in the long-term.
The Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, run by the Junior League of Austin (Texas), was developed to support and empower Hispanic girls to achieve academically, graduate from high school, and pursue post-secondary education. Girls are enrolled in a college preparatory program in sixth grade, and they receive tutoring, mentorship, and counseling through twelfth grade. They also participate in joint events with their mothers such as college trips and community service activities. Through a partnership with the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work, college interns provide weekly counseling sessions for girls who are experiencing academic or personal challenges. This includes special counseling for pregnant teens. Beyond the individual counseling offered, students in the program also meet for a support group to discuss topics including self-esteem, conflict resolution, anger management, relationships between mothers and daughters, healthy romantic relationships, and study habits. In addition, female college students and professionals from the community serve as mentors, meeting with their protégés twice a month. For further information, see http://www.jlaustin.org/?nd=hmdp
Funded by the state of Florida to increase college attendance among low-income minority students, the College Reach Out Program (CROP) at Florida International University (FIU) helps at-risk students in the Miami area prepare for college. CROP runs a four-week summer camp for middle and high school students that provides academic preparation and classes geared towards the specific course work students will face in the fall. The middle school program takes place at FIU, giving students an opportunity to become familiar with a local college campus. The program also includes career exploration activities. Students work in mixed-age teams to research a specific career and gather detailed information about it, including the skills and credentials required. At the end of the program, students make formal presentations to an audience about the careers they have learned about. For further information, see http://www.fiu.edu/
Mentoring relationships begin with a foundation of intergenerational bonds of mutual commitment, respect, identification, and loyalty.121 For such relationships to form, however, time and sustained contact is needed (usually around a shared activity or interest.) Too many immigrant youth lead sequestered lives with few contacts outside of their immediate homes. This is an important area of intervention, as research has shown that mentorships can be pivotal life-changing relationships for immigrant youth., These relationships provide not only invaluable information but also sustaining emotional support.
The Centre for Multicultural Youth in Australia created the Multicultural Youth Mentoring Project to provide culturally and linguistically diverse youth ages 16–21 with opportunities to develop leadership and advocacy skills that they can use to improve their communities. Adult mentors, recruited from a range of professional, cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, are matched with young people, and they work together to achieve a set of goals that the protégé has identified as important in his or her life. A peer support and self-advocacy group supplements mentoring relationships by offering the youth participants a chance to meet and discuss their experiences. For further information, see http://www.cmy.net.au/
The immigration process can be a demanding and risky venture, and it often requires considerable energy, commitment, struggle and sacrifice of those who seek to start a new life in foreign lands. While immigrants and their families shoulder much of the burden of integrating into new societies, the longer-term members of those societies are also implicated in this process. Without their deliberate and thoughtful engagement, which may consist of adapting their own behaviors and expectations and examining their stereotypes about new arrivals, successful integration is not possible. Support for integration cannot be based only upon providing services directly to immigrants learning about how to live in a new society; also needed are programs and activities to support native citizens as they learn about and accept their new neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and customers. Receiving societies have begun experimenting with a wide range of approaches to engaging new members in the complex process of immigrant integration; while there is still much to be done, there is also considerable promise in this area. At the same time, however, few government officials and policy-makers have publicly recognized the critical role of the host society in the integration process or the need to support such initiatives; and as such, this remains one of the most under-resourced aspects of immigrant integration strategies.
Local service providers (health workers, police officers, teachers, etc.) are often newly arrived immigrants’ first and most frequent points of contact with their new society. In fact, interactions with these service providers may constitute some of the rare opportunities that new immigrants have to meet and communicate with members of their host society, particularly in cities where ethnic and residential segregation is the norm. Therefore, it is important to provide targeted support and training to those providers and public servants who work closely with newcomers and equip them with the background knowledge, cultural awareness, sensitivity, and skills to work effectively with immigrants. In many ways, these individuals are ambassadors for the host society, and their attitudes and behaviors may set the tone for the larger integration process ahead. Programs and interventions to develop greater sensitivity, cultural awareness, and the necessary skills can take a variety of forms, ranging from professional development sessions and trainings to organized educational visits to immigrants’ countries of origin.
The Center for International Understanding is a public service program of the University of North Carolina that is dedicated to enhancing mutual understanding among diverse communities within the state and across the globe. The Center offers training programs, leads international trips, and coordinates conferences and events with this goal in mind. One training area works with K–12 teachers to develop skills and knowledge they can use to help their students become globally competent citizens. Another initiative offers resources, experience, and training to business, policy, and school leaders to increase their global awareness, and it includes travel to the countries of origin of immigrants in their communities as a key component. Finally, the Center educates local leaders about the demographic changes their communities are experiencing and provides them with strategies to help guide their communities through these transformations. For further information, see http://ciu.northcarolina.edu
The Municipal Department of Integration and Diversity in Vienna, Austria coordinates a variety of programs and activities related to immigrant integration. The Department of Integration and Diversity works with other municipal offices to implement diversity-oriented policies, improve their front-office services for heterogeneous populations, and assist them in educating local service providers. For example, they offer trainings and support for municipal offices to adjust their services to meet the needs of immigrant populations. The staff of MA-17 is uniquely qualified to do this work, hailing from 14 different countries and speaking 23 languages. For further information, see
Strategies to improve a host society’s reception of immigrants must take a multi-pronged approach to addressing the variety of issues that emerge when long-term residents are faced with changes in their communities. Demographic shifts and in-migration often produce fear of the unknown among long-term residents, and this fear converts too regularly into easy acceptance of negative stereotypes about newcomers. These stereotypes and the beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes they generate may have long-term and highly damaging consequences for social cohesion and immigrant integration. As a result, investing in campaigns to challenge false and harmful stereotypes — perhaps not only about new immigrants but also about other maligned members of society — is crucial. Media efforts and widespread public awareness strategies can be powerful approaches to combating negative stereotypes. Public and political will must forcefully promote positive images and messages in order to guide successful integration processes that engage all members of society.
The Centro Interculturale Mondinsieme in Reggio Emilia, Italy, is an open space for all citizens, long-term and newly arrived, to come together, exchange ideas, and generate dialogue about the changing face of Reggio society. As part of its “laboratory of ideas,” the Center publishes a regular column in the local paper highlighting the achievements and day-to-day positive contributions of new immigrants, especially youth, to Reggio society. For further information, see
The Refugee Awareness Project emerged out of the work of Refugee Action, an organization whose mission, since 1981, has been to make refugee voices heard in the United Kingdom. By developing a formal role for volunteer refugees, the Refugee Awareness Project has expanded the scope and reach of their work. Volunteers and project coordinators give interactive workshops and talks in schools, museums, places of worship, sports clubs, offices, and wherever they are invited. Their free sessions are designed to help the audience learn to distinguish fact from fiction about refugees and to give people an opportunity to ask questions about refugee policy and refugees’ experiences in the U.K. Using a mix of activities, film, discussion, and first-hand accounts from refugee and asylum seeker volunteers, the workshops are tailor-made to each group’s individual needs. For further information, see http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/what_we_do
In Spain, the Fundación CEAR (Consejo de Apoyo a los Refugiados) (the Foundation Council of Support for Refugees) financed a public awareness campaign by a small NGO entitled, “Enséñame Africa” (“Show me Africa,”) aimed educating the Spanish public, and particularly students, about the lives of African refugees in Spain. The campaign sought to highlight the realities of refugee migration to Spain, emphasizing pre-migration conditions, the motivations behind migration, the challenges that migrants face, and the impact of displacement in their daily lives. Although the campaign is no longer running, further information about Fundación CEAR can be found at http://www.fundacioncear.org/
The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, another winner of the 2009 E Pluribus Unum Award for an outstanding immigrant integration initiative, has shown leadership in a new destination state by developing programs that strive to increase public understanding of the harsh realities of immigration and to engage people in a constructive dialogue about the demographic changes in their communities. The Welcoming Tennessee Initiative sends ambassadors into communities to raise public awareness, advocate for policies that support thoughtful integration, and provide support for new community members. Conceived in partnership with a range of non-governmental actors, this project serves as a model for how active citizens can be agents for change and leaders in developing strategies for strong, inclusive communities. The Welcoming Tennessee Initiative has inspired similar efforts in thirteen states. For more information go to http://www.welcomingtn.org/
Human contact is one of the most powerful ways to break down artificial barriers among people, challenge misconceptions, and develop meaningful partnerships, relationships, and cooperation. Residential segregation, high concentrations of immigrants in certain employment sectors, and xenophobia can result in severe social separation between immigrants and other members of a host society, and this constitutes a significant obstacle to successful integration. Although in many ways more difficult than training service providers and financing public awareness campaigns, promoting opportunities for sustained and meaningful social interaction between immigrants and native residents is the lynchpin of an effective strategy to improve host society reception of immigrants, and ultimately facilitate a more rapid and smooth integration process.
The unique one-on-one citizenship mentorship program, created as part of the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative, was born out of community leaders’ belief in the importance of building bridges between old and new residents. Although participants are focused on a specific goal — preparing for and passing the citizenship test, the impact of the program has dramatically transcended this. The mentoring relationship has fostered closer ties between native-born and immigrant members of the community, encouraged civic engagement, and enhanced intercultural understanding. Mentors provide much more than just civics instruction to immigrants; they help connect them with professional, educational, and health services. At the same time, immigrants introduce their mentors to different languages, cultures, and life experiences. Through the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative, the City of Littleton, Colorado has put the idea of inclusiveness into practice and begun to reap the benefits of diversity and social cohesion. For further information see www.connectingimmigrants.org (See Also ➢ Citizenship Information above.)
Welcoming America Network. In 2005, founder David Lubell began an initiative in Tennessee as a way to foster dialogue between folks who had been living in the community for many years and newcomers. Welcoming Tennessee organized dinners at churches, at Rotary Clubs, and at community organizations as a way to reach across difference. As a result of these efforts, from 2006 to 2008 anti-immigrant attitudes in Tennessee softened and Nashville voters defeated English only measures and voted for several welcoming initiatives. Word spread of this success and in 2009, the Welcoming America Network was established. This group has brought together a network of inclusive communities with the joint goal of increasing community belonging and prosperity. They connect local governments as well as networks of non-profits in developing plans, programs, and policies to transform communities into respectful spaces. Their philosophical premise is one based upon the notion that: “when communities welcome newcomers, they become better places for everyone.”
They offer a number of resources including toolkits for cities:
as well as for refugees:
The various practices described in this report highlight what can be and is being done to help immigrant children and youth overcome a wide range of challenges they confront as they negotiate their new homelands. These practices are currently being implemented in various contexts and have been shown to have positive and far-reaching impacts on the young people, their families and in some cases on the host society as well. They are “bright spots”5 of innovative approaches to support immigrant children and youth in harnessing their resiliencies to contend with the many challenges they face. None should be expected to be taken-up “as is” but there are lessons to be learned by considering common denominators across the practices and strategies of theory of change that reoccur across spaces that are effective. We hope this report has served as an inspiration.
UCLA — Institute for Immigration, Globalization, & Education
1041 Moore Hall • Box 951521 • Los Angeles • CA 90095-1521 • (310) 206-9820 • IGE@gseis.ucla.edu
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