Dear Madame President,
We have a tendency to automatically write off immigrants as bad people who come to America to steal, rape, kill, and take our jobs, but they are always more complex than that, and usually aren’t here for any of the above. They just want to live a good life the way that we do, meaning that they must live, rather than dying from political strife and violence in their home country, and they must have the education that they need to be successful at a job so that they may be productive in our economy and earn the money they need to live in a house with food, electricity, water, and gas. We need to be focusing on the education of immigrants because, whether you like it or not, those that come here legally are Americans, and they can’t be made to leave. They will be here, and they will have to either beg, cheat, and steal, or apply a quality education in the direction of a job that will help us produce goods and grow our economy.
Some people may cede that education is important, but not see why immigrants are a special case of this issue. Why can’t they learn alongside US born students without changing how we teach? Well, according to Associate Professor Kumar Warikoo from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, “Even though one out of every four children in the United States is an immigrant or the U.S.-born child of immigrants, many schools are ill-equipped to meet their needs. Immigrant youth frequently are learning two languages, an incredible asset, but one that many schools have yet to learn to support effectively.” It has been shown by studies conducted by the US Department of Health that learning additional languages is a massive advantage to any student. It develops key parts of the brain, it advances cultural understanding, and it reduces the divide between peoples on the Earth. When an immigrant learns the language and culture of the American people, they become more relatable, more approachable, and more hirable. When it comes to getting a job, English skill and knowledge of the American lifestyle is far more important than simply knowing the facts that will lead you to earning a bachelor’s degree, and making yourself useful for the economy. So then why do we teach facts and ignore the language and the culture? Why don’t we provide for students to effectively and efficiently learn English so that they can catch up to their peers that were raised in English speaking households? Why is the teaching of foreign languages to our US born students such an afterthought, that we cram into high school without any care for actually ensuring that our students understand what they are being taught and can use it to help them function as adults in a global society?
But it is more than just language and culture that hinders the education of immigrant children. These kids are in a constant state of fear. If a child or their guardian is in this country illegally and the child knows it, then they have more pressing matters to think about than school. More pressing matters such as an impending deportation. While a child is here, they have the right to an education, as it is illegal to require proof of citizenship or immigration status to enroll in a US school, but that doesn’t stop Immigration from taking the child and their family away from school. How would you feel if you were in school, just trying to learn, but all you can think about is the possibility of being sent back to a country you had to escape for your own safety? Sandra Jimenez, the principal of High Point High School in Prince George’s County, Md., frequently deals with immigrant students, not all of them legal, and her view on the matter can be summed up by the following quote, “The only reason these people are here is because they are desperate. These people are coming to survive.” In most cases, people don’t immigrate to the US because they want to take our jobs, kill our people, rape our women. They because they don’t feel safe in their own home in the community they were raised in, because of violence, sometimes as bad as civil war. These people are refugees, and they deserve refuge. Even if you don’t agree that immigrants deserve the right to be here, their children frequently aren’t asked what they think on the matter. They are woken up in the middle of the night, the faint sound of gunshots in the distance, and they are told to pack what they absolutely need so they can escape the country. They aren’t given the option. They are simply scared children who want to be safe, and they deserve at least that much.
Emma Brown, a journalist with the Washington Post, said this of her interview with Jimenez, “She can speak at length about language acquisition, the pedagogy of teaching English as a second language and the importance of children learning grade-appropriate vocabulary in math, science and social studies — such as ‘commutative property,’ which new arrivals were practicing in a math class on a recent weekday morning. But Jimenez said that the most powerful thing that the school has done is to show its new immigrant students that they have support and that they are safe. ‘we have built an oasis. School is the place where people have your back,’ she said. ‘If you don’t feel safe, you can’t learn.’” This is a professional educator, teaching at a primary school that frequently experiences influxes of immigrant students, and she says that the most important thing for learning is to feel safe. So then why would we ever want to challenge that safety with the threat of deportation? It is true that many school aged immigrant children are spared deportation, but this does not go far enough. Firstly, not all of these kids are spared, which is something that needs to be fixed immediately. Secondly, when a family is raided by Immigration officials, and the parents of sent back to wherever they came from and the kids are left to remain in the US, left to the foster system, or a distant relative, or nobody, they miss out on a very important part of their life. Unless you were personally orphaned, there is no way to really put yourself in those shoes, but you know one thing… it’s awful.
The Pew Research Center has published an article which shows immigrant students being more likely than US-born students to achieve bachelor’s degrees. However, they are less likely to have high school diplomas. Statistically, this means that immigrant students that do manage to complete high school are likely to go on to achieve bachelor’s degrees. So then, assuming that I’ve managed to convince you that immigrants should be educated, we should be focusing heavily on education in primary and secondary schooling. This means that we need to effectively support early language skills so that they can effective learn other subjects in an English school system, and, until these students have the English skills to learn at the same pace as US-born students, we need to put additional effort into ensuring that they are learning everything to the same quality of understanding that their US-born peers achieve.
Finally, we need to focus more on the teaching of foreign languages to our US-born students. Bilingualism is such a great advantage to learning, it’s a wonder that we don’t train all of our kids like this. I think we should have a standard that ends with all of our students being fluent in at least three foreign languages by the time they graduate high school. This may sound like a lot to those that only learned basic high school French, Spanish, OR German, but it is very possible. Most German students leave secondary school with fluency in English and French, and a decent understanding of Spanish. This would increase our students’ understanding and respect of immigrants and foreigners, allow for better communication and an increasingly global society, and strengthen the brains of our students, making it much easier for them learn everything else, especially if they also learn music on the side.
We have a tendency to automatically write off immigrants as bad people who come to America to steal, rape, kill, and take our jobs, but they are always more complex than that, and usually aren’t here for any of the above. They just want to live a good life the way that we do, meaning that they must live, rather than dying from political strife and violence in their home country, and they must have the education that they need to be successful at a job so that they may be productive in our economy and earn the money they need to live in a house with food, electricity, water, and gas. We need to be focusing on the education of immigrants because, whether you like it or not, those that come here legally are Americans, and they can’t be made to leave. They will be here, and they will have to either beg, cheat, and steal, or apply a quality education in the direction of a job that will help us produce goods and grow our economy. Which would you prefer?