Frontera Fund News Trump Watch

Harsh Immigration Crackdowns Hurt Students, Schools, Economy

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As we’ve reported, increasingly aggressive immigration policies under the Trump administration are ripping apart families, both at the border and in neighborhoods throughout the U.S. Now, new research reveals these tactics are reverberating through schools, spreading fear among children and driving college-age students away from our universities.

A recent study of 3,500 educators in 730 schools across 12 states shows that both immigrant students and U.S. citizen children of immigrants are terrified that they, their families and their friends will be picked up by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). 

Nearly 90 percent of administrators reported observing behavioral and/or emotional problems with students worried about immigration enforcement. Two-thirds of teachers and staff said that even students whose families are not targets of enforcement experience fear and concern that adversely affect their education.

“We have one student who had attempted to slit her wrists because her family has been separated and she wants to be with her mother.” –Teacher in Maryland

The educators stated that “it was, at times, very difficult for students to learn and teachers to teach.” They reported absences, worsening academic performance, and less parental involvement in the lives of students. Some students’ family members had already been deported or lost their jobs due to their status, resulting in children not having enough money for food or other basic needs.

A teacher in a Southern state said: “Several students have arrived at school crying, withdrawn and refusing to eat lunch because they have witnessed deportation of a family member. Some students show anxiety symptoms… All of this impacts their ability to focus and complete work, which further affects them academically.”

One teacher in the Midwest related how an immigration raid had affected previously high-performing students: “I noticed those students behaving so differently. They don’t sit or stand tall. They do not want to participate in presentations. They do not want to be called [on]. They seem disconnected or uninterested now.”

Even grade-schoolers “are worried that their parents will be taken away. They are afraid that they don’t know how to care for their younger siblings,” one teacher noted. A fourth-grader told her teacher that “her mom is teaching her how to make food and feed her baby sister in case the mom is taken away.”

“I had one student who came back the day after prom and would not eat or talk to anyone. I finally found out from one of her friends that she came home from prom to find her mom deported and never had the chance to say good-bye or anything.” –Teacher in California

Universities are also being negatively impacted, both for these reasons and because fewer international students are attending American universities. 

In 2017, the State Department issued 393,573 international student visas. That’s a 17 percent decrease from 2016 and an almost 40 percent drop from 2015.

Ramped-up security and the unwelcoming, xenophobic climate that has festered since Trump’s rise to power are contributing to this problem. And it is a problem, since international students often pay two to three times as much in tuition. Without them, schools are losing millions of dollars. 

The biggest fallout has been in students from China and India, which bring a high percentage of individuals who study STEM fields. The loss of those students will exacerbate the brain-drain the U.S. is already suffering due to the Trump administration’s vehement anti-science stance.

The drop-off in international students will likely spark a drop in the economy and jobs. In 2017, international students contributed nearly $37 billion to the economy and supported more than 450,000 jobs.

Again and again, the Trump administration’s xenophobic “America first” attitude is backfiring – harming the country’s values, people, economy and international standing.