Panel: Immigrant Families: Early Childhood Education in the Wake of Increasing Immigration Enforcement
(Family and Child Policy)

Friday, November 3, 2017: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Stetson BC (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Stephanie Potochnick, University of Missouri, Columbia
Panel Chairs:  Karthick Ramakrishnan, University of California, Riverside
Discussants:  Krista Perreira, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Michael Lopez, Abt Associates, Inc.

Exploring Preschool Access for Children of Immigrants
Erica Greenberg, Gina Adams and Molly Michie, Urban Institute

Local Immigration Enforcement Policies and Head Start Program Participation of Hispanic Families
Jade Marcus Jenkins, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Stephanie Potochnick, University of Missouri, Columbia

Immigration Context Moderates Ethnic Pairing: Representative Bureaucracy and the Salience of Hispanic Ethnic Identity
Katie Vinopal, The Ohio State University and Juan Pedroza, Standord University

One in four children under the age of six is the child of an immigrant. Most of these children, particularly Latinos, are highly motivated but are often less prepared academically for school than children of U.S.-born parents. Given the well-known importance of early childhood education (ECE), significant policy efforts are being made to increase immigrant enrollment in preschool programs and to provide more holistic services that address the unique cultural and linguistic needs of immigrant families.


Many of these efforts, however, may be stymied by growing anti-immigrant sentiment and the resurgence of localized immigration enforcement policies. These policies create fear and mistrust in immigrant communities and may prevent ECE programs from enrolling and supporting eligible immigrant families, who are already hard to reach. Consequently, children in these communities may struggle more upon entering school.


This panel brings together four papers at the nexus of these two issues—ECE in the wake of increasing immigration enforcement. The first paper lays the foundation for understanding the barriers immigrant parents face in accessing ECE. Providing rich contextual information from over 200 parent and service provider interviews, this study identifies innovative strategies for reducing barriers and increasing immigrant program enrollment. The next paper evaluates the effectiveness of one novel strategy—providing free English as a Second Language classes to immigrant parents. Using a mixed methods approach, the authors find that by providing more holistic services for immigrant families, Head Start programs reduce access barriers and better accommodate children’s schooling.


The next two papers demonstrate how localized immigration enforcement increases ECE barriers and reduces the effectiveness of ECE strategies to reach immigrant families. The third paper focuses on Head Start—nearly a third of enrollees are English language learners—and examines how local level immigration enforcement policies, i.e., 287(g) and successor program, Secure Communities, impact Hispanic enrollment and parent participation nationwide. 287(g) allowed local police to act as immigration enforcers for the first time. This third paper adds to the growing evidence that local immigration enforcement decreases educational/social service use of eligible immigrant families by extending evidence to Head Start programs. The last paper demonstrates how the consequences of localized immigration enforcement extend to the elementary-school years and alter the effectiveness of known immigrant outreach/engagement efforts—hiring teachers who are racially/ethnically representative of their students. The study shows that growing anti-immigrant sentiment and enforcement moderate the effectiveness of this strategy.


This panel will provide educators/policymakers with key insights on how to design effective ECE programs for an extremely vulnerable population of children and families in an era of rising anti-immigrant sentiment. The Chair, Dylan Conger, and Discussants, Krista Perreira & Michael López, are leading experts in the fields of ECE and immigration and will add valuable insights. Additionally, the unique cross-disciplinary perspective (e.g., sociology, public policy/affairs, economics, education) and wide ranging experiences (academics, researchers, and doctoral students) of the panel, as well as the mix of qualitative and quantitative data, will ensure that the full complexity of issues facing early childhood immigrant education are considered.

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