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Presidential Highlighted Session: Seeking Rights of Citizenship and Equality of Educational Opportunity: Issues Facing Immigrant Students in the U.S. South

Mon, March 6, 11:30am to 1:00pm, Sheraton Atlanta, 3, Grand Ballroom D&E (South Tower)

Session Submission Type: Group Panel

Description of Session

In the past, CIES has always shown great care to explore the educational contexts of the cities and regions in which the annual conference is held, and to highlight the particular issues related to educational inequality in those areas. Given the prevalence of immigration to the U.S. South since the mid-1990s, and the continuing general disregard given to immigrant students in the region in terms of educational policy, a panel such as this seems particularly salient and necessary to a full discussion of this year’s theme of “Problematizing (In)Equality” in the greater Atlanta area, and the larger U.S. South. Currently, the U.S. faces alarming increases in unaccompanied/undocumented immigrant youth from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. These young people are entering the U.S. due to organized crime and poverty in Central America. A recent report from the Brookings Institute notes that approximately 16,000 unaccompanied youth entered the U.S. in 2011, and that number tripled in 2014. This poses challenges for law enforcement and immigration officers since 85-90% of those unaccompanied and undocumented youth wait to have deportation hearings on average 578 days (Negroponte, 2014). The result of this influx of youth and their delayed integration into U.S. society raises new dilemmas in U.S. public schools, particularly in southern states. Given this national immigration policy landscape, we collectively argue that attention to the inequalities faced by immigrant (undocumented and documented), and professionals that work with immigrant children and youth need to understand the backgrounds and experiences of this population as well as problematize local contexts. In this panel, we are particularly interested in the reconfiguration of the immigration landscape in the U.S. South since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the mid-1990s, which significantly increased immigration into the area, particularly from Latin America. This panel of university-based researchers with backgrounds in sociology, anthropology, education policy and social work offers a unique interdisciplinary set of perspectives on the experiences of immigrants in the U.S. South. The first two papers offer insight into the institutional inequalities faced by undocumented immigrants in South Carolina from conceptual, policy perspectives and from empirical data that speaks to the lived realities and consequences of restrictive policy contexts. The latter papers offer an ethnographic look at the experiences of undocumented immigrants facing punitive legal measures in Georgia and other Southern states, both within schools and within their larger communities. Together, this panel offers insight into the detrimental effects of unequal access and opportunity in precarious policy contexts of the U.S. South. Through the larger discussion which will be promoted by the discussant, connections will be made to larger issues facing migrants across the globe, particularly those migrants who lack access to citizenship and the rights associated with it.

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