Seven percent of children in the United States are born to parents who don’t have legal immigration status, according to NBC News. And a new report from UNESCO, “Building Bridges, Not Walls,” finds that many students are missing school due to fear of deportation, whether it’s their own or a loved one’s.
That fear is heightened when schools allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to search the grounds or collect personal student information. American immigration policies “are detrimental to the education of those with undocumented status,” the report states.
The UNESCO report shows this is happening all over the country. An immigration raid in Las Cruces, New Mexico, triggered a 60 percent spike in absenteeism in February 2017. The dramatic drop in attendance was an eye-opener that led the school board to stop giving ICE agents access to the grounds barring a judicial warrant. They also discontinued collecting immigration status information for the student body. “I’m afraid that one day out of the blue, my mom will be gone or my dad will be gone,” said Los Angeles student Heidi Mensobar, who was interviewed as part of the study.
It isn’t all bad news, however. Some U.S. policies actually protect immigrants’ education and have a positive effect on the lives of students. For example, the report credits the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—which provides two-year renewable protection against deportation for eligible students and workers—with spurring a 15 percent increase in graduation rates. The program allowed students of undocumented status to “enroll in colleges and universities in all states except in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.” The program is currently in limbo as the Trump administration works to dismantle it.
“Building Bridges, Not Walls” stresses the importance of schools ensuring the safety of all people of undocumented status. “We’ve had parents arrested for deportation which obviously affected the school,” said Los Angeles school principal St Claire Adriaan in the study. “It is bothersome that students are going through so much, and how it affects their learning.”