The Immigration Ban and Education Policy

Apr 24, 2017 by

US immigration policy is having a real impact on public education.

A Change in Presidents and Policy

Since his inauguration in January, President Trump has prioritized immigration enforcement. Many of his recent actions were predicated by his campaign speeches and other statements.  Campaign promises to restrict immigration from certain predominately Islamic nations and to build a physical barrier on the US-Mexican Border are now the reality of US immigration policy. An Executive Order signed by the President on January 25th accommodates sweeping changes in the way immigration laws are enforced.  The order provides for broader categories of undocumented immigrants to be a target for deportation, increased cooperation between local and federal agencies as well as funding cuts for sanctuary cities.

Responses from the Education Community

Educators from schools and districts with large immigrant populations have been the most likely to take some sort of position regarding the changes in immigration policy.  Tensions are running high at urban schools with significant Muslim student populations.  Students are anxious about their futures as they are made increasingly aware of travel bans and deportations. Chicago Public Schools has responded by issuing directions for school administrators to refuse entry of any federal immigration officials unless a proper warrant is presented and even then, after consultation with the district’s legal department.  Reaction has not been limited to schools in major cities.  Des Moines Public Schools issued a formal statement of support for their immigrant students within days of the updated March 25th Executive Order. The impact of these changing immigration policies has been realized as far away as Toronto where school leaders have decided to restrict further field trips to the US. At the school level, educational policies are about promoting increased understanding and upholding inclusive practices.

Legal and Political Challenges

The short and long term sustainability of the Trump immigration policies has already faced numerous challenges.  His initial Executive Order banning certain immigrants from predominately Islamic nations was overruled by a federal court and his revised executive order was put on hold by a federal judge from Hawaii. The case seems destined for a Supreme Court hearing, but is not likely to become formal policy in the near future.  A cornerstone of Trump’s campaign platform was the construction of a border wall on the southern frontier.  The likelihood of that project securing funding is dwindling as fiscal realities are presented by legislators. Although there are challenges to these crucial aspects of the President’s immigration enforcement plan, it is important to note that significant headway in the domestic enforcement of existing laws and deportation of illegals has been made under the Trump administration.

Issues for Educators

Any and all school leaders need to consider how these changes in immigration will affect their schools and district policies. For many, the impact will be marginal.  If your school or district has few or no immigrant students, this may be a non-issue.  For others, the reality of these changes has already manifested in anxious students, nervous parents and decreased overall engagement among portions of the student body.  From an administrative perspective, schools need to develop concise policies regarding their immigrant student population.  It is illegal, immoral and simply unprofessional to hinder the education of any student as a result of their religious, national or ethnic identity.  The United Nations explains that, “Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights”.

At the same time, it is vitally important for the well-being of all students and the school community to consider the legal and practical ramifications of changing immigration policy. Take the time to analyze the school population in detail.  Collaborate with teachers to learn more about immigrant students and their relationship with the larger student body.  Reach out to the families of all students to learn their hopes and concerns regarding immigrant issues.  Keep abreast of current events to ensure your school is prepared for the changes as they arise and consult with legal authorities to confirm compliance.  Preparation and communication is the key to making sure schools effectively educate students and foster community unity.

Comment Below: how has the recent immigration policy changes at the federal level affected your school or district policy?

Keywords: education policy, presidential election, immigration ban, executive order, human rights, United Nations, Chicago Public Schools, Des Moines Public Schools


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