How immigration enforcement is negatively affecting schools


by Edward Graham

While the number of illegal immigrants in the country has risen to over 11.1 million people, the stigma associated with being an undocumented worker affects a wider range of Americans than previously thought—and it’s an issue that threatens the academic success of many students in our schools.

In their recently released report “Legal Violence: How Immigration Enforcement Affects Families, Schools, and Workplaces,” authors Cecilia Menjívar and Leisy Abrego find that the current culture of immigration enforcement creates a sense of fear and despondency that affects the community as a whole. The study is the culmination of 10 years of meticulous research, as well as over 200 in-depth interviews and surveys that explore how the consequences of increased enforcement flow through the communities where immigrants live, work, and learn. The report was released last week in tandem with a panel discussion on the subject at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.

“We argue that the fear created by this enforcement—both real and perceived—creates the conditions for what we call ‘legal violence,’ harming immigrant incorporation into the United States,” the report summary says.

Menjivar’s and Abrego’s findings point to a system of enforcement that undermines the ability of immigrants to effectively integrate into American society. With increasingly harsher laws meant to push undocumented workers to “self-deport,” immigrants are seeing their already depleted opportunities dry up further as fears of detention and deportation become the new norms.

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