Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2001 Issue »


    Desiree Baolian, Qin-Hilliard, Erika Feinauer, Blanca G. Quiroz
    At the beginning of the last century, the United States experienced a wave of large-scale immigration that brought unprecedented numbers of hopeful people to this country to start a new and better life. Coming from countries around the world, but mostly from Eastern and Southern Europe, these immigrants settled throughout the United States, in time shaping the culture and psyche of their new home to make the nation it is today.

    One hundred years later the United States is once again being transformed by a historic large-scale immigration that in sheer numbers has surpassed all previous records (see Suárez-Orozco, Suárez-Orozco, & Qin-Hilliard, in press). This “new immigration,” which began after the passage of the Hart-Celler Act of 19651 and rapidly intensified in the last decade of the twentieth century, is characterized by an ongoing flow of immigrants, especially from Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean (see Massey, 1995). The majority of new immigrants are settling in a handful of states: California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois are the most affected (see Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001). However, nearly every region of the country is witnessing a significant increase in immigrant populations, including traditionally all-White enclaves. Like their predecessors, these new settlers herald dramatic social transformations of cities and suburbs in the United States.

    With this new immigration has come the largest wave of immigrant children ever in U.S. public schools. Suddenly, schools all over the country are experiencing a large influx of children from all over the world who speak over one hundred different languages (see OBEMLA, 2000). Today, immigrant children are the fastest growing sector in the U.S. child population (see Landale & Oropesa, 1995). From 1990 to 1997, the number of children in immigrant families grew by 47 percent, compared to only a 7 percent increase for U.S.-born children with U.S.-born parents. Currently, one out of every five children attending public schools in the United States, approximately 18 million, is either an immigrant child or a child of immigrant parents (see Hernandez & Charney, 1998). This number is projected to be one out of three by 2020 (see Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001). How these children adapt to their new cultural setting directly affects the future of the United States.

    Try for a moment to imagine what it must be like for immigrant children who come to a new and vastly different land, leaving behind home, family, and friends — everything that was familiar and gave meaning to their lives. What must it be like for a Haitian boy to enter a U.S. classroom for the first time? What does he experience as he encounters other children from a variety of ethnicities he may never have seen before? How does a Vietnamese girl feel when she cannot understand the language spoken in the classroom or on the playground? In order to meet the needs of these immigrant children and provide them with genuine educational opportunities, regardless of race, country of origin, social circumstance, or language, it is critical that we understand their complex and unique experiences.

    Over the last fifteen years, increasing attention has been devoted to immigrant children’s adaptation and education (see, e.g., Aronowitz, 1984; Gibson, 1988; Hernandez & Charney, 1998; Kao & Tienda, 1995; Laosa, 1989; Olsen, 1997; Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 1995, 2001; Sung, 1987). However, the study of immigration and education is still new, and many issues are as yet unexplored. For example, how much do we, as practitioners, researchers, or policymakers, know about the adaptation, education, and everyday experiences of children who have been overlooked by the existing literature, such as children from Hmong, African, and Yemeni origins? How can we better understand the role of immigrant families in the schooling of their children? How do school programs and other institutions contribute to the success — and failure — of immigrant youth? In this new era of globalization, do we need a new research paradigm for the study of immigration and education?

    With this Special Issue, the Editors of the Harvard Educational Review direct close and much needed attention to these and other questions facing U.S. educators, practitioners, and policymakers. As immigrants ourselves and the descendants of immigrants, as researchers and practitioners working closely with immigrant children, we are invested in the exploration of these pressing issues. In dedicating an entire Special Issue to this topic, we hope to highlight the critical importance of these issues and their relevance not only to immigrant communities, but to all Americans concerned with the education of U.S. youth.

    In the lead article to this Special Issue, “Globalization, Immigration, and Education: The Research Agenda,”; Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco proposes a new research paradigm for the study of immigration and education in the new millennium. He contends that the conception of immigrant children’s education needs to be examined within the broader socioeconomic and cultural phenomenon of globalization. He further argues that we need a new research agenda if we are to productively examine and understand immigration and education in the current and coming decades.

    The next four articles address issues related to immigrant families. In “The Work Kids Do: Mexican and Central American Immigrant Children’s Contributions to Households and Schools in California,”; Marjorie Faulstich Orellana highlights immigrant children’s “work” in terms of its value and contribution to their households and schools in ways that challenge this society’s view of children’s work. She discusses the implications of this work for these children’s education and development. Next, in “The Sojourner Experience of Yemeni American High School Students: An Ethnographic Portrait,”; Loukia K. Sarroub examines the “sojourner” mentality and the experiences of Yemeni American high school girls in a school located in a tight-knit Yemeni community. Sarroub illustrates the incompatibility and conflicts in the lives of these high school girls among the different social and mental “spaces” they must negotiate in their daily lives, especially between home and school, and between Yemen and the United States.

    In “The Value of Hard Work: Lessons on Parent Involvement from an (Im)migrant Household,”; Gerardo R. López describes the experiences of a family that moves from place to place in search of work, while maintaining a constant belief in the value of hard work. This family’s story is one of possibilities and of giving, of how the schools and the family work for the same goal but through new, different means that are not always recognized, acknowledged, or valued by others. Similarly, in “Parents’ Aspirations and Investment: The Role of Social Class in the Educational Experiences of 1.5- and Second-Generation Chinese Americans,”; Vivian Louie examines social-class differences in immigrant parents’ attitudes and involvement in the educational experiences of 1.5- and second-generation Chinese American college students. She finds that across social classes, Chinese immigrant parents have high expectations for their children’s education. They express this in ways that reflect both “immigrant optimism” and “immigrant pessimism.”

    Other authors in this Special Issue investigate factors that influence the diverse educational trajectories of immigrant students. In “Structuring Failure and Success: Understanding the Variability in Latino School Engagement,”; Gilberto Q. Conchas examines how schools structure success and failure for low-income immigrant and native-born Latino high school students. Conchas’s discussion highlights characteristics of a successful program, which include balancing students from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, fostering supportive relationships among students from different backgrounds, and providing students with both role models and clear and reasonable goals.

    Stacey J. Lee complexifies the stereotypes of 1.5- and second-generation Hmong American high school students in “More Than ‘Model Minorities’ or ‘Delinquents’: A Look at Hmong American High School Students.”; Her data challenge scholarly work that suggests a simplistic one-to-one relationship between the maintenance of traditional culture and high achievement, and among Americanization and low achievement and delinquency. She concludes that academic success is the result of both cultural transformation and cultural preservation.

    The next two articles offer insight into relatively neglected perspectives on the immigrant experience. In “More Than Empty Footprints in the Sand: Educating Immigrant Children,”; Eva Midobuche touches upon the topic of undocumented immigration. She reflects on her childhood memories of growing up along the Texas-Mexico border and witnessing the horrid experiences of undocumented workers and their children as she examines the policy and practice dilemmas concerning the schooling of undocumented children.

    In the literature on education and immigrant children, one population that has not received enough attention is Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa. In “The Effects of Immigrant Generation and Ethnicity on Educational Attainment among Young African and Caribbean Blacks in the United States,”; Xue Lan Rong and Frank Brown use quantitative methods to analyze 1990 U.S. Census data. They examine the combined effects of immigrant generation and ethnicity on the schooling of African and Caribbean Black youth in the United States. Their findings suggest that Caribbean Black youth share similar educational attainment patterns with European White immigrant youth, with the second generation outperforming the first and third-plus generations. African Black youth, however, display a different educational trajectory, with declining educational attainment associated with each successive generation.

    In the study of immigration and education, cross-sectional research designs dominate much of the scholarly work. In “A Comparative Longitudinal Approach to Acculturation among Children from Immigrant Families,”; Andrew J. Fuligni offers a methodological innovation by challenging this approach and calling for the use of comparative longitudinal research designs in the study of immigrant children’s acculturation. This method, argues Fuligni, will enable researchers to separate effects related to acculturation from normative developmental changes, and to examine variations within and among different groups of immigrant children.

    In conclusion, Carola Suárez-Orozco considers the current state of research on immigration and education. In her “Afterword: Understanding and Serving the Children of Immigrants,”; she explores how the articles published in this collection respond to the current trends in the field and directs our attention toward important areas for future research.

    All of the authors in this Special Issue recognize that immigration has changed the face of American society. Each wave of immigration has brought its own unique stories. Stories of immigrants are often stories of understanding, but also of frequent misunderstanding. Sometimes they are stories of loss or of success — but they are always stories of change or exchange. As the newest wave of immigration continues to grow, it has become increasingly clear that more attention needs to be turned toward the stories of immigrant children.

    The articles in this Special Issue, which cover a broad range of immigrant communities, student ages, research methods, and epistemological orientations, seek to contribute to a greater understanding of these immigrant children’s stories. We believe that the realities of the immigrant experience today should directly inform educational practice, so that practice will be sensitive to immigrant children’s realities. We hope that this Special Issue will inform educational practice and policy, and provide points of departure for continuing conversations around issues related to education for immigrant children and children of immigrants.

    Desirée Baolian Qin-Hilliard
    Erika Feinauer
    Blanca G. Quiroz

    Click here to purchase this article. 
  2. Share

    Fall 2001 Issue


    Desiree Baolian, Qin-Hilliard, Erika Feinauer, Blanca G. Quiroz
    Globalization, Immigration, and Education
    The Research Agenda
    Marcelo Suárez-Orozco
    The Work Kids Do
    Mexican and Central American Immigrant Children’s Contributions to Households and Schools in California
    Marjorie Faulstich Orellana
    The Sojourner Experience of Yemeni American High School Students
    An Ethnographic Portrait
    Loukia K. Sarroub
    The Value of Hard Work
    Lessons on Parent Involvement from an (Im)migrant Household
    Gerardo R. Lopez
    Parents’ Aspirations and Investment
    The Role of Social Class in the Educational Experiences of 1.5- and Second-Generation Chinese Americans
    Vivian Louie
    Structuring Failure and Success
    Understanding the Variability in Latino School Engagement
    Gilberto Q. Conchas
    Immigrant Students’ Worlds in Art
    Robert Shreefter
    More than “Model Minorities” or “Delinquents”
    A Look at Hmong American High School Students
    Stacey J. Lee
    More Than Empty Footprints in the Sand
    Educating Immigrant Children
    Eva Midobuche
    The Effects of Immigrant Generation and Ethnicity on Educational Attainment among Young African and Caribbean Blacks in the United States
    Xue Lan Rong and Frank Brown
    A Comparative Longitudinal Approach to Acculturation among Children from Immigrant Families
    Andrew J. Fuligni
    Understanding and Serving the Children of Immigrants
    Carola Suarez-Orozco

    Book Notes

    Children of Immigration
    By Carola Suárez-Orozco and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco

    At War with Diversity
    By James Crawford

    Educating New Americans
    By D. F. Hones and C. S. Cha

    Language Crossing
    Edited by Karen Ogulnick