In the Spring of 2022, partnering with YouthTruth and Re-Imagining Migration IIH Director Carola Suárez-Orozco began leading a new research initiative to help schools learn about their immigrant origin students and their sense of belonging in school. Building upon the comprehensive, normed measures developed by YouthTruth, we piloted a set of questions to delineate the unique intersecting identities that make immigrant-origin students more vulnerable to experiencing less than optimal school climates—being first or second-generation immigrants, multilingual English learners, and diverse racial, ethnic, and religious minority backgrounds. Our spring pilot data with 8 schools across the country included 3,211 students and demonstrated excellent promise for work moving forward.
While 7 percent of U.S. children live with an unauthorized immigrant parent, researchers and practitioners alike have little insight into how these children and their families process the phenomenon of “illegality.” Existing research highlights the role of external messages in the family’s communication practices, like school and media messages. The literature on ethnic-racial socialization suggests caregiver approaches to communicating with their children about how to cope with such messages can play an inhibiting or protective role in youths’ development. However, for mixed-status immigrant family members, processes of belonging across all contexts and relationships in their lives are embedded in the constantly-changing sociopolitical construct of “illegality”. For parents, navigating immigration policy may be cognitively challenging and further complicated by the responsibility to protect and educate their children.
The focus of this NSF-funded study is to unpack family-level socialization processes, referred to as immigration socialization, to generate foundation knowledge that helps us understand how anti-immigrant rhetoric shapes children’s learning through caregiver/parent mechanisms. We need a more nuanced understanding of how mixed-status immigrant families, living under the threat of immigration policy and striving to survive day-to-day, engage in socialization in the face of immigration threat.