“I Have the Right to Family, I Have the Right to an Education”: Family Narratives on the Impact of Deportation on Latino Children’s Learning Experiences

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  • This study examines the impact deportation of a parent has on a child’s learning experience. Immigration policy has changed since the 1990s in ways that have led to increases in deportations and family separation, particularly among Latino families. Laws passed in 1996, 2002 and 2006, for instance, changed in response to concerns about terrorism and unauthorized immigration (Pew Research Center [PRC], 2015). However, these laws did not deal with terrorism. Instead, as Kanstroon (2007) explained, these immigration reforms were connected to the dominant group’s social control. That control was enforced through the legal structure and the use of force against people identifiable by race and nationality (p. 5). And they resulted in the deportation of thousands of Latinos (PRC, 2019) leaving their families with children behind. The latest statistic revealed that the Latino immigrant community is disproportionally affected by forcible removal (PRC, 2019) This dissertation, which focuses on Latino family narratives about the impact that deportation has on the learning experiences of their children in the U.S., begins with a historical overview of immigration policy in the U.S. from the early 1950s and a review of relevant literature on the impact of deportation on children and families. The research questions explored the effects that the forced removal from the U.S. of a parental figure has on Latino children’s learning experience, according to their families. Qualitative methods were employed to address the research questions. Specifically, in this study, narrative analysis was used to examine ten in-depth interviews of Latino individuals who met the following criteria: (a) had minor children in the New Jersey Public School System and a spouse or partner who was removed due to deportation proceedings, or (b) was an individual who was a minor when a parent(s) was deported. Another method used was auto-ethnography, and the researcher provides some analysis of her family and experiences. This research identified four themes: community environment, personhood in learning, school support and parental trust, and emotional-financial support. For instance, for the theme of trust, this study found that families do not feel that they could trust the school with information about their deportation experience. At the same time, schools cannot support a child’s learning if they are unaware of the severe and long-lasting learning implications that deporting a parent(s) have on Latino children. The most important finding of this study was that the children of the deportees experienced emotional distress. As participants expressed, their children suffered psychological and emotional stress in the face of being separated from their families. They became vulnerable to emotional triggers, often interpreted as dysfunctional behavior, both in school and at home. Participants also stated that the deportation of a parent changed their children’s lives soon after the event transpired and even into later years of their lives. Finally, implications for research and practice are discussed. Interventions in school and policy changes are needed to support the educational needs of a child who has experienced a forced family separation due to deportation. These findings are relevant to the school community and policymakers, as it will aid them in understanding the complexity of deportation and how it affects the students, families, and communities the schools are serving.
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  • 04/16/2024
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