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Covering Immigration: Challenges for the Next Administration

Dean Kathleen McCartney and Associate Professor Vivian Louie participated in a one day conference last week that brought together scholars, social scientists, and journalists to discuss immigration research and media coverage.

The conference, Covering Immigration: Challenges for the Next Administration, was sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Immigration Studies at New York University, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

"This was a call for us all to learn from one another and improve coverage of immigration from many different perspectives in research and in journalism," Louie said. A sociologist who studies the intersection of social class and culture in the education and identities among immigrants and their children, Louie spoke as part of a panel about immigration and the assimilation of the second generation.

She presented research and conclusions from her upcoming book, which looks at the transistion of second generation Dominicans and Colombians to college and their assimilation. "We need to reconceptualize immigrant parent involvement to really bring into conversation the needs of immigrant parents as immigrants," she said.

In Louie's research, she is discovering that the needs of immigrant parents and students are not being met. "A common theme in research on immigration and education is that immigrant children often say they feel they are on their own because they don't have a lot of family resources," Louie said, noting that "American schools are structured in a way so that parents are advocates of children."

Louie explained that immigrants talk about feeling marginalized long after they arrive in the country. This raises many feelings of cultural disconnect among immigrant parents of all socioeconomic levels.

Dean McCartney addressed the impact immigration has on education before introducing keynote speaker George de Lama, former deputy managing editor of the Chicago Tribune.

"Today you've heard researchers grapple with important developmental questions about what students - and importantly immigrant-origin students -- will need to learn in order to be fully engaged, active, and critical citizens in the 21st century," she said. "As a group, you also bring to the forefront a question that is of critical importance to me as the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education: How do we integrate immigrant-origin children into our education system and ensure that they are successful?"

Citing a recent article, McCartney noted that 22 percent of U.S. youth report having immigrant parents and that by the year 2040 over a third of youth will be growing up in immigrant households. Additionally, the U.S. census reports that in 2007, 29 percent of elementary through middle school students and nearly 23 percent of high school students were foreign born. McCartney pointed out that the demographic shift changes our societal structures and education systems, but also noted that schools play an important role in establishing immigrant's status in America.

"Clearly, the children of immigrants represent the future of our country -- and our world -- in very concrete ways," McCartney said. "Our future will be shaped in part by how we manage the education of immigrant origin youth."