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  • Author: Julie Sugarman
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: Data about English Learner (EL) students in the United States are more plentiful than ever. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), states must report a wide range of information about their students’ English language arts and math standardized test scores, graduation rates, and more. They must also break these data down to show how students with certain characteristics—subgroups including racial/ethnic groups, students with disabilities, and ELs—are doing. This wealth of data is meant to help policymakers, practitioners, and community members identify schools that need to do a better job of helping ELs learn. But for this to be possible, it must be clear who states are including in the EL subgroup—something that varies across types of data and that is not always clearly marked on state student performance reports or online dashboards. This brief aims to help data users understand how the composition of the EL subgroup varies, and why understanding these technical differences matters when making decisions about how ELs and schools are faring. It also discusses how breaking data out further for certain groups of ELs such as newcomers, students with interrupted formal education, and long-term ELs could benefit decision-making.
  • Topic: Education, Immigrants, Language, Integration
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ariel G. Ruiz Soto
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: On June 7, 2019, after months of heightened Central American migration through Mexico to the United States, the Mexican and U.S. governments signed an agreement to work together to manage the migration of Central American asylum seekers and other migrants. This ushered in an intense period of policy and institutional change that is reshaping Mexico’s immigration enforcement and humanitarian protection systems. After being threatened with steep tariffs on Mexican goods, Mexico agreed to step up enforcement efforts, accepted the expansion of the U.S. Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, also known as Remain in Mexico) along the U.S.-Mexico border, and promised to increase collaboration with the United States to disrupt migrant-smuggling networks. In turn, the United States pledged to expedite the asylum cases of migrants waiting in Mexico under MPP and invest in economic development efforts in southern Mexico and Central America to address the drivers of migration. While the full impact of the deal will likely take years to unfold, this policy brief takes stock of what has changed in the first year since its signing. It charts trends in migrant apprehensions and returns by Mexican authorities, and the volume of asylum applications filed in Mexico. The brief also examines challenges that have intensified during this time, including the precarious conditions many migrants face while waiting in Mexican border communities for their U.S. asylum cases to be heard and the COVID-19 pandemic that hit in early 2020. Looking ahead, the brief highlights opportunities for further policy development.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Immigration, Border Control, Refugees, Asylum, Deportation, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Central America, North America, Mexico, United States of America
  • Author: Julie Sugarman, Leslie Villegas
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: Standardized tests play a central role in the U.S. education system, shaping how states hold schools accountable for ensuring that all students have equitable access to a quality education. Schools and districts sometimes also use testing data for high-stakes decisions about teacher pay and whether students can move on to the next grade. It is thus crucial that standardized assessments are able to accurately capture what students know and can do. But for English Learner (EL) students, test scores may not fully reflect how much they have learned in a subject if they cannot demonstrate their knowledge in English. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) encourages states to consider offering native language assessments as a test accommodation for ELs. Yet official guidance and research are limited on how to use such assessments effectively, and only 31 states and the District of Columbia use such tests. Depending on factors such as students’ English proficiency levels and the language(s) in which they receive instruction, these tests may be a good fit for some ELs but not others. This policy brief explores key policy and practical questions for states considering implementing or expanding their use of native language assessments. It also provides an overview of the choices made by the jurisdictions that already use them—including the subjects and languages in which native language assessments are offered and how they were created. Finally, the brief offers recommendations for the federal government, states, and local actors that could help build understanding of when these tests work well and how to make them more widely available.
  • Topic: Education, Immigrants, Language, Integration, ESL
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Julie Sugarman, Melissa Lazarín
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: As schools closed their physical classrooms in March 2020 due to COVID-19, educators across the United States reported that English Learners (ELs), immigrant students, and students in low-income families were particularly difficult to reach with online instruction. The pandemic and the sudden, forced transition to remote learning have brought into sharp relief the inequities that many of these students face in often under-resourced schools. Despite significant effort on the part of educators to support their students’ continued learning through Spring 2020, these efforts fell short for many ELs and students in immigrant families. Among the most notable barriers: a lack of access to digital devices and broadband, school–family communication gaps, parents’ limited capacity to support home learning, and inadequate remote learning resources and training for teachers on how to use them effectively. With the 2020–21 school year underway, and many schools continuing to operate partly or entirely remotely, this policy brief takes stock of the impact schools’ response to the pandemic is having on ELs and immigrant-background students. It identifies key challenges states and school districts must overcome, and outlines policy recommendations to help them ensure these students are adequately supported in this academic year and beyond. These include prioritizing ELs for in-person instruction when schools buildings begin to reopen, professional development on digital instruction that includes a focus on working with ELs, strategies for strengthening parental engagement, and funding mechanisms to shield high-needs students from the brunt of expected budget cuts. As the authors note, “depending on how states and districts adapt in the coming year, schools could emerge from this crisis having built stronger and more resilient systems on a foundation of equity for ELs and immigrant-background students.”
  • Topic: Education, Science and Technology, Immigration, Inequality, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Caitlin Katsiaficas
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: Home visiting programs are increasingly popular in communities across the United States. A two-generation model for health and social service provision, home visiting is designed to support both young children and their caretakers to promote their health, well-being, and long-term outcomes. For immigrant and refugee families, home visiting can also offer integration-related supports, such as by helping parents navigate unfamiliar early childhood, health, and social service systems. But even though they make up an important segment of the at-risk populations these programs aim to serve, immigrant and refugee families are less frequently enrolled in home visiting programs than families in which the parents are U.S. born. This brief highlights strategies adopted by some states and counties to address this gap. To do so, it looks at four case studies: King County, Washington; San Diego County, California; Illinois; and Massachusetts. Working with different populations and in varied funding environments, these state and local efforts illustrate key steps policymakers and program administrators can take to boost the equity and quality of home visiting services for immigrant families, such as by: explicitly including at-risk immigrant families in program needs assessments and prioritizing them for services alongside other at-risk families; incorporating community input into program design; adjusting procurement processes to level the playing field for community-based organizations that seek to offer home visiting services and are well positioned to connect with families of different linguistic and cultural backgrounds; and supporting research on what program models work well for immigrant and refugee families.
  • Topic: Education, Refugees, Immigrants, Integration
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Doris Meissner
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: The immigration enforcement regime at the U.S.-Mexico border offers a vivid example of how existing policies, laws, and resource investments are markedly out of step with new migration realities and future needs. A border enforcement system designed to address the once-dominant flows of single adults from Mexico seeking to enter the United States illegally for work is ill prepared to deal with more complex mixed flows of families and unaccompanied children from Central America, some seeking humanitarian protection, others opportunity. Consistent with its world view of immigration as threat, the Trump administration has responded by shutting down any meaningful access to humanitarian protection and asylum, by invoking a public health authority to expel more than 205,000 arrivals during the COVID-19 pandemic, and by constructing hundreds of miles of border barriers. Yet these strategies cannot succeed over the long term, nor are they consistent with U.S. law and international agreements and principles on protection. In this road map, MPI Senior Fellow and former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner Doris Meissner outlines some of the steps to a more effective approach, one that builds on border management as an enduring function. Rather than a sole focus on thwarting illegal arrivals, successful border management requires cross-agency and cross-governmental collaboration that marries effective border security with fair, humane enforcement. This report is part of MPI’s multiyear Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy initiative, which is generating a big-picture, evidence-driven vision for the role immigration can and should play in America’s future. To learn more about the initiative and read related research, check out the initiative’s home page.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Immigration, Governance, Border Control, Asylum, Deportation
  • Political Geography: North America, Mexico, United States of America
  • Author: Doris Meissner, Michelle Mittelstadt
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: President-elect Joe Biden pledged during the campaign to reverse some of the most restrictive immigration actions undertaken during Donald Trump’s four years in office, including family separation and a travel ban on nationals from majority-Muslim countries. He also vowed to temporarily halt deportations, reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, increase refugee admissions, and halt construction of the border wall. This policy brief outlines some of the incoming administration’s top immigration priorities and examines challenges and opportunities ahead. Drawing on existing and forthcoming policy ideas from MPI’s Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy initiative, the brief sketches several proposals that could begin to shape a U.S. immigration system that advances the national interest going forward. The near-total shutdown of asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, for example, does not represent a long-term strategy nor is it consistent with longstanding U.S. values. Effective long-term solutions to deal with mixed flows of economic and humanitarian migrants entail processes to provide fair, efficient processing of asylum cases, including by having the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Division oversee the merits of border asylum cases to completion—an MPI recommendation the Biden campaign embraced. The brief, among other proposals, also recommends the creation of multiagency reception centers near the border for one-stop screening of arrivals and speedy turnover to the relevant agencies.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Infrastructure, Border Control, Employment, COVID-19, Labor Market
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Muzaffar Chishti, Austin Rose, Stephen Yale-Loehr
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: Noncitizens have a long history of serving in the U.S. military, and in many periods, the promise of expedited naturalization has been used to encourage them to do so. More than 760,000 noncitizens have enlisted and obtained U.S. citizenship over the past century, with peaks during the World Wars and a smaller uptick since September 11, 2001. Yet in recent years, Congress and the Defense Department have raised vetting requirements and changed training and naturalization timelines for noncitizen recruits, citing national security concerns. Such concerns are nothing new, but past military policies have generally reflected the view that national security is better served by having a fully staffed and highly skilled fighting force than by keeping noncitizens out. This policy brief puts these recent changes into context, offering both a historical look at noncitizens in the U.S. military and analysis of how they could help meet modern recruitment needs. Among other things, the brief looks at the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, through which more than 10,000 noncitizens with in-demand skills have entered the military since 2008 and before recent policies effectively halted the program. The brief also discusses approaches policymakers could take to balance security concerns with the potential benefits of allowing noncitizens with key linguistic, cultural, health-care, and cyber skills to serve in the armed forces.
  • Topic: Immigration, Employment, Citizenship, Military Service, Noncitizens
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Julie Sugarman
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: Although education is in many ways a responsibility of states and localities, the U.S. federal government also has an important role to play. National laws, court rulings, and policy guidance help ensure that English Learner (EL) and immigrant-background students have equitable access to a meaningful education. It is then up to states and school districts to color in many of the details as they implement these protections in their free, public primary and secondary school systems. This EL Insight lays out seven key ways the U.S. government protects the educational rights of EL and immigrant-background students, including those with Limited English Proficient and unauthorized-immigrant family members. It also explains the legal framework behind these rules, who enforces them, and how they can be seen in action in schools across the country. Some of the policies highlighted in this brief—such as using a two-step home language questionnaire and English assessment to identify which students are ELs—are well established and look similar across the country. Others, such as requirements for what credentials teachers must have to work with ELs, vary considerably. And while some legal protections have become a basis for strengthening broader educational policy, many have limitations or have fallen short their implementation. This brief is the latest in a series of English Learner Insights, which also includes an introduction to finding and using EL data and to the instructional models schools use to serve ELs.
  • Topic: Education, Immigration, Language, ESL
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Doris Meissner
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: The U.S. immigration system is in desperate need of an overhaul—and has been for many years. What has been missing is an alternate vision for a path forward that treats immigration as a comparative advantage and strategic resource, while also accounting for heightened security and rule-of-law imperatives, that can together further U.S. interests, values, and democratic principles as a society. This concept note outlines a new MPI initiative, Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy, that seeks to fill this gap. The multiyear initiative will generate a big-picture, evidence-driven vision of the role immigration can and should play in the future of the United States, acknowledging policymakers are operating against a backdrop of globalization challenges, tech-induced disruptions reshaping the future of work, growing competition for talent, and national polities increasingly skeptical of government’s ability to manage migration. The initiative's starting point is to recognize that there are new realities facing the United States that should drive immigration policymaking in the coming period, not a return to the tired debates of the past 20 years that have foundered again and again amid rising partisanship and polarization. Among these new realities: a rising old-age dependency ratio, changing challenges at the U.S.-Mexico border, need for greater flexibility in the immigration systems as other countries have modernized their immigrant-selection systems, and a shattering of the bipartisan consensus that for decades has seen legal immigration as a positive. Historically, immigration policymaking and legislation have only succeeded through across-the-aisle cooperation and a search for common ground. This initiative is committed to re-energizing such bipartisanship and recapturing a new center in formulating and advancing fresh, feasible solutions.
  • Topic: Immigration, Border Control, Employment, Economy
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America