Understanding the impacts of immigration policy on the University of California’s student population – estimated to include 4,000 undocumented students and even more from mixed-status families - is the focus of a new $270,000 collaborative initiative spearheaded by Laura E. Enriquez, University of California, Irvine Chicano/Latino studies assistant professor. The two-year project, which begins in January 2019, will focus on how recent immigration policy shifts have impacted the education and well-being of undocumented students and citizen students with undocumented family members.

“Immigration and immigration policy is such a hotly contested topic. We, as educators and educational institutions, need to think about how that’s impacting our students and ways we can prevent negative consequences,” Enriquez says.

The new initiative continues her prior work on the Undocumented Student Equity Project, a student-initiated research collaboration created in 2016 that conducts academically rigorous research and collects data to inform educational institutions on how to best provide resources that meet the needs of undocumented students. 

Working with Enriquez are six colleagues at UC Berkeley, UCI, UCLA, UC Riverside, and UC Merced. Together, the researchers will build on the success of Enriquez’s survey of undocumented UC students and design an expanded questionnaire to assess educational and well-being outcomes before and after federal immigration policies shifted. They’ll also be surveying students from mixed-status families to see the extent to which family members’ immigration status increases the likelihood of poorer educational and well-being outcomes among citizen students.

“Our 2016 assessment of undocumented students across the UC system found huge gaps in academic and overall well-being,” says Enriquez.

Of the students surveyed, 79% reported being distracted in class because of immigration-related issues, 74% lost study time, 62% did poorly on an exam, and 52% missed class. In terms of health, they reported significantly higher levels of stress and poorer overall health than comparable populations.

Funding provided by the UC Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grant will also allow the collective to develop a cohort of scholars conducting policy-relevant research in this area. The UC researchers will host a workshop for faculty, students and student affairs practitioners from across the state and fund research grants and graduate student fellowships to foster publicly engaged scholarship on related issues. A second conference, policy reports, working papers, and other deliverables will highlight key findings and best practices to promote immigrant and student equity.

“As educators, we can help to mitigate the effects of immigration policy on our students by putting institutional policies in place. This research will help us figure out what those institutional policies should be,” she says.

With support provided by UC President Janet Napolitano over the past six years, the UC system has hired dedicated staff members, created undocumented student centers, provided institutional financial aid and free legal services, and developed innovative programming to reduce educational, social-emotional, and resource inequities. At UCI, Enriquez and her undergraduate and graduate student research collaborators have used survey data to establish programs for undocumented students.

“As an institution, UCI and the UC system is seen by others in the state and across the nation as pioneering what can be done to help,” Enriquez says. “The collaborative is driven by our commitment to ensuring that pioneering research and innovative practices across the UC system fulfill their maximum promise,” she adds, highlighting the importance even through the collaborative’s name – Promoting Immigrant and Student Equity – UC PromISE.

“We have a lot to offer other institutions by way of best practices, and we’re looking forward to expanding that reach with our new funding.”

Additional UC professors collaborating on the project include: Annie Ro, UCI; Lisa García Bedolla, UC Berkeley; Jennifer Nájera and Cecilia Ayon, UC Riverside; Robert Teranishi, UCLA; and Zulema Valdez, UC Merced.

More information is available at www.UndocEquity.com.


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