Immigration Studies : Youth Adapts to Change - 27 septembre 2010

fr - III. Policy Implications


The research on these ten factors most strongly affecting schooling performance and social adaptation of immigrant children has significant policy implications. Major reforms in the area of immigrant policy must address two critical areas : the status of undocumented immigrants, and the structure of our nation’s schools. Recent policy initiatives have proven ineffectual in the short term, and thus irrelevant to the modern realities of migration in the long term. The U.S.
immigration bill, approved by Congress on September 29, 2006 and subsequently signed into law by President Bush, failed to systematically address immigration reform. Nothing in the new bill addressed the fate of the undocumented immigrants already in the United States or the need for more visas and possibly a guest worker program.#19 Policies in several states that push newly-arrived immigrant children into the high-stakes world of No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
are similarly short-sighted about the realities of immigration for children. Nowhere in any of these policies is there any discussion of how to aid the children of immigrants in becoming integrated and well-functioning members of our society.
We must first develop a formula to regularize the status of undocumented immigrants. Without a clear policy, it will be impossible to develop any comprehensive policies to better the welfare of immigrant children. Regardless of the exact formula, the effects of regularizing status on access to opportunities for undocumented immigrant youth will be significant. Research suggests that undocumented immigrant youth as well as youth growing up in households headed by undocumented parents will most likely remain in the United States, rather than returning to their countries of origin. Without incorporating these millions of children into mainstream society, they are condemned to living in the shadows. The nation will ultimately be forced to bear the social cost of driving these youth deep into the world of illegality. Federal financial aid for higher education is not available to undocumented immigrants, creating ripple effects
throughout the lives of immigrant youth. Not only are employment opportunities limited for those with only a high school diploma, some undocumented immigrant youth begin to disengage from high school, knowing there would be know realistic way for them to pursue a college education. Some of these immigrant youngsters are making a premature transition to the labor market.#20 Solving the problem of undocumented immigrants is a necessary prerequisite to other viable reforms.
Current proposals in several states requiring newly-arrived immigrant students to be subject to take high-stakes testing after just one year in the United States would have very negative results. Research suggests that the vast majority of immigrant children cannot possibly be expected to master the complex intricacies of academic English in one year of study, particularly in the highly dysfunctional schools where huge numbers of newly arrived immigrant students are

concentrated. Submitting newly-arrived immigrant youth to the regular testing regimes required under NCLB would push more youth toward premature disengagement from school. Rather than requiring immediate integration into the testing regime, we need policies that ease the acquisition of English, and school cultures where immigrant and native students are well integrated and can learn from each other. This is the best way to keep children in school and support the development of English language skills. It is important to remember, however, that in our globalized economy multilingualism is an asset. Immigrant bilingualism and its accompanying linguistic diversity are cultural resources to be nourished. We should make normative multilingualism an educational objective for all youth growing up in the global era, immigrant and native alike.