Today’s post was written by library student assistant Kaylee Tokumi.
During our first Faculty Pub Night of the 2021-2022 school year, Jongyeon (Joy) Ee spotlighted how immigration enforcement impacts students across our nation. Ee is an assistant professor from Loyola Marymount University’s School of Education who focuses on various topics ranging from bilingualism to educational equality. She recently published her research, Schools Under Siege: The Impact of Immigration Enforcement on Education Equity, which she co-wrote with her former professor and current colleague, Patricia Gándara. Gándara is an esteemed research professor from the UCLA Graduate School of Education. She has won various awards, including LMU’s Educator of the Year Award in 2014, and served on the Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics under former President Obama. Together, Ee and Gándara work to bring immigration and educational equity issues to light.
Ee and Gándara began their presentation by turning to January 2017, the month when former President Trump first took office. The lives of many immigrant families were turned upside down as Trump began changing immigration laws and deploying ICE raids. Immigrants were labeled as terrorists, murders, and animals. Ee shared her own fears related to immigration, saying, “This issue came to me in different ways. I’m an immigrant myself. I felt immensely insecure and vulnerability for many decades, for many years, because I was supposed to maintain my labor status on a regular basis.”
Ee and Gándara held a student-centered approach throughout their research process. To quote Gándara, “These young people and their schools were invisible, we wanted to make them visible.” Using surveys, Ee and Gándara collected data from approximately 3600 educators at 760 different schools. Their findings showed that on average 80% of students had voiced some concerns about immigration enforcement and its impact on their undocumented family members. Teachers reported that students were worried about losing their family members, felt stressed about becoming caregivers for younger siblings, and felt they couldn’t trust anyone. Such students often exhibited behavior problems and lost academic motivation. The students were tired, and so were the teachers. Even now, immigrants and their families still face many stressors, and there needs to be positive change.
With their book completed and published, Ee and Gándara hope that their research can be used to create immigration policy changes. They are actively trying to give their text to members of congress and other change-makers, so they can turn words into action. While their research process involved complicated statistical tools and equations, their text is accessible and has the power to educate and inspire many.
As Ee concluded her informative and moving presentation, the audience was excited to begin the question-and-answer segment of the event. Rhonda Rosen, our host, started the conversation by asking if educators have the power to create change for immigrant students. Both speakers agreed that yes, educators can make a significant difference. Ee felt that educators had the ability to create much needed systematic change. Gándara noted that parents are generally supportive of teachers, so if educators raised their concerns, many would listen.
Ee and Gándara also touched upon the importance of independence organizations in helping immigrant families. As mentioned earlier in the presentation, churches, NGOs, and even universities have set up safe spaces for immigrants. They create environments where immigrants feel safe and provide resources, like WiFi, so students can continue their education online. Other institutions, like the Loyola Law School, offer immigrants help in checking their immigrant status.
The final question of the event was a simple yet daunting one: how long do you think it will take to change the system? Ee and Gándara felt that the answer can only become clear with time. For change to take place, the national government would need to prioritize equal education for all students. As Ee and Gándara emphasized, we should focus on students by giving them the educational tools and environment they need to thrive, instead of concentrating on politics. We should work to build a society where teachers can teach, and children are free to follow their dreams.
About Faculty Pub Night
Faculty Pub Night is a library-sponsored speaker series launched in 2010. It is designed to highlight a diverse, interdisciplinary range of research publications and creative works created by faculty at Loyola Marymount University and Loyola Law School, presented to a broad audience that includes students, faculty, staff, and off-campus guests. If you have any questions about the series, please contact Rhonda Rosen, the Programming and Exhibitions Librarian for the William H. Hannon Library.