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The Ripple Effects of Immigration Enforcement in K-12


This dissertation consists of three empirical studies that uses different sources of data and quantitative methods to explore the potential ripple effects of immigration enforcement actions on K-12 schools. The first study examined the relationship between deportations ordered by U.S. immigration courts and reading and math achievement in elementary grades. The study uses nationally representative data from two cohorts of elementary students, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies: Kindergarten Classes of 1998-99 and 2010-11. Results indicated that Latinx student achievement in math declined in counties with increases in the number of deportations. Findings suggest that these associations were driven by children in urban schools, second-generation children, children in households living under the poverty line, children attending Title I schools, and English learners. Looking across four separate terms of presidential administrations that oversaw immigration policy, results also suggest that declines associated with increases in deportations were not observed in the second term of the Obama administration.

The second study examined the immediate and sustained impacts of immigration arrests on student absenteeism in secondary grades. This study uses weekly logs of student attendance provided by a partnering school district, which serves students in an area of California that experienced significant immigration enforcement activity from 2014-2018. The study employs quasi-experimental methods using data from the partnering school district as well as a peer district located over 100 miles from occurring incidents of immigration arrests. Results indicated that large incidents of immigration arrests corresponded to immediate declines in the attendance rate of students in the district. Moreover, results show that the incidents with the greatest number of arrests resulted in a sustained decline in the district’s attendance rate by 2%, even when accounting for student mobility and demographic changes. These results are for all students in the district. Findings were most pronounced for Latinx students, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, English learners, migrant students, and students with disabilities.

The third study focuses on new teachers entering California schools. Specifically, this study examined to what extent teachers experienced the impacts of immigration enforcement in their schools. These outcomes included whether they witnessed impacts on students, reported increases in their own job dissatisfaction due to immigration enforcement, and/or whether they felt prepared to support students impacted by immigration enforcement. This study also examined what preservice training characteristics corresponded to these three outcomes. Survey data was collected from graduates from the teacher preparation programs in the University of California system. These new teachers were surveyed at the time of graduation and after one year of full-time teaching. Findings from this study suggest that most teachers report experiencing impacts of immigration enforcement on their students and believe immigration enforcement has increased their job dissatisfaction. Results also indicated that teachers who received greater exposure to immigration policy and procedures in their preservice training were more likely to witness students impacts and felt better prepared to support these students. Teachers who reported having more exposure to discussions about engagement with immigrant families also tended to report being better prepared to support students who are impacted by immigration enforcement. Differences based on school and teacher characteristics are discussed.

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