Supporting Immigrant Students: Introduction

Note: This is the introduction to a collection of research-based suggestions for supporting English Learners including immigrant and refugee students.

In 2021, the Children of Immigrants are 27% of the school-aged population of the U.S.

In the United States, the question of how schools are responding to the educational needs of immigrant-origin students and their peers has never been more relevant. Twenty-six percent of school-aged children today are either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants; and in light of increasing political divides over immigration, rising hate incidents in and out of schools, and increased immigration enforcement, their place in schools can feel precarious. Recent studies highlight the impact of the current climate on both immigrant students’ and their peers’ social well-being and academic performance.

In this difficult environment, we need creative and effective strategies to address the unique strengths of and challenges for immigrant-origin students, who are defined as the children of immigrants. They can be first-generation (born abroad) or second-generation (born in the U.S. with a foreign-born parent). Both share parents who are immigrants. Some are English Language Learners, and some are not. Finding ways to optimize their successful inclusion into schools is both an economic and a democratic imperative. In the United States, immigration is our past, our present, and our future. The Irish, Chinese, Italians, Germans, Eastern European Jews, and others who once crossed the ocean to what many called the Golden Land struggled to adapt to live in their new land when they first arrived, just as do today’s “new immigrants” do. The concerns about how the old immigrants could and would fit in were similar to the arguments of today. We can only speculate about the ways that those who argued that they could never fit in, would respond to today’s successful inclusion of generations of immigrants.

Indeed, in many ways, immigration is a good news story. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences focusing on the integration of immigrants in the US found that today’s immigrants are integrating as fast or faster than immigrants of the past did. A closer look at schools suggests that we should be doing better, however. Although children of immigrants often enter schools full of hope, too many of their educational experiences leave them isolated, frustrated or disengaged. Many educators who work with immigrant-origin students do not feel well-prepared or adequately trained to work with this rapidly changing student population.

The purpose of these resources is to bridge research from the academy to classrooms, with the recognition that only by learning with and from each other can we help our immigrant-origin and English Learning students reach their full potential.

The resources in this collection are adapted from A Culturally Responsive Guide to Fostering the Inclusion of Immigrant-Origin Students. Follow the link to download the guide for free.

1 Rogers, J., Franke, M. Yun, J.E., Ishimoto, M., Diera, C., Geller, R., Berryman, A., & Brenes, T. (2017). Teaching and learning in the age
of Trump: Increasing stress and hostility in America’s high schools. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and
2 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2015). The Integration of immigrants into American society. Washington,
DC: The National Academies Press.
3 Suárez-Orozco, C., Onaga, M., & Lardemelle, C. (2010). Promoting academic engagement among immigrant adolescents through
school-family-community collaboration. Professional School Counseling, 14(1), 15-26.
4 Goodwin, A. L. (2017). Who is in the classroom now? Teacher preparation and the education of immigrant children. Educational Studies, 53(5), 433-449