Panel Paper: The Chilling Effect of ICE: An Examination of Student Achievement Following a Large Worksite Raid

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Marriott Balcony A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Raymond Zuniga, American University

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses worksite raids to remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the country illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration laws and border control efforts. While proponents and critics of worksite raids agree that immigration laws must be enforced to uphold the rule of law, there is considerable disagreement over the use of large worksite enforcement operations (LWEO) as an enforcement strategy; LWEOs allow ICE to efficiently use its finite resources, but it has been heavily criticized for its impact on local communities and young children.

Prior research from Urban Institute scholars describes how LWEOs destabilize schools and learning environments when children become separated from their parents and communities are disrupted. To be more specific, their reports state that LWEOs negatively affected the mental and emotional health of children in households where a parent was apprehended by ICE. Moreover, school officials observed that emotional distress was not limited to children whose parents were apprehended, suggesting there may be spillover effects to groups not commonly associated with immigration debates. Ultimately, these interruptions to schooling made it difficult to resume normal classroom routines. Surprisingly, however, teachers did not describe large impacts on student academic performance, but it must be noted the evidence here is anecdotal and could suffer from response biases. For example, other scholars using quantitative research methods find increasing immigration enforcement intensity harms educational outcomes for young children with likely undocumented parents. Given this discrepancy, further investigation using quantitative research methods is warranted to better understand LWEO effects on academic performance for young children.

I contribute to this literature by using synthetic control methods to estimate causal effects of a 2006 LWEO on academic performance for young children in a targeted community, Cactus, TX. Preliminary findings show large declines in district-level proficiency rates on reading and math standardized tests in 2007, especially for Limited English Proficiency students. I find little evidence to suggest absenteeism or changing student body composition are potential mechanisms driving these changes academic performance. Additional analyses will examine changes in academic performance for young children in TX using school-level data. To assess whether these findings are unique to TX, I will also examine changes in academic performance for young children in Greeley, CO, whom experienced a LWEO on the same day as in TX.