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Midterm elections are here: Immigration policy and enforcement effects as voters head to the polls

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Lisa Lopez-Escobar, PhD Student

Sophia Rodriguez, PhD

University of Maryland, College Park

November 8, 2022

In this week's blog, UMD doctoral student in urban education, Lisa Lopez-Escobar, discusses how immigration is on the top of voters' minds as well as hot topics for both democrats and republicans. For many Latino voters, the immigration system needs significant overhaul, and the broken aspects of this system perpetuate legal violence and social and educational inequalities.

In Maryland, I had the chance to weigh in on the candidates for Governor Wes Moore (D) and Dan Cox (R). Cox's anti-immigrant and anti-critical race theory perspectives and lack of support for educational issues in Maryland are rooted in his nationalistic ideologies. He also organized a group to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 to support Trump's claim that the election was stolen from him. Meanwhile, Moore supports Maryland’s Blueprint, and will prioritize key educational issues such as trauma-informed and healing centered practices, and overall supports educators. For key issues and races in Maryland check out this resource.

We welcome additional comments and reflections, please email us at: or through the Immigrant Ed Next website.

By Lisa Lopez-Escobar

With midterm elections today, the topic of immigration has once again been thrust into the spotlight and used for political stunts. With polls showing immigration and education to be top issues on voters' minds, many local and state-level MAGA republican candidates are leaning into rhetoric highlighting parent choice, freedom to choose, and anti-critical race theory. These GOP candidates are increasingly advocating for mass deportations as well. While immigration is usually considered a national security and crime issue, less attention is given to how xenophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric and stringent enforcement policies affect our nation's schools. When politicians intentionally cultivate a culture of fear around immigrants, the effects and realities of a broken immigration system extend beyond immigrant youth to non-immigrant youth and teachers, permeating educational spaces as a whole and preventing educational equity.

Research from scholars such as Patricia Gándara, who co-directs the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, highlights how fear of stricter immigration enforcement policies decreases parent trust in public institutions and not only diminishes the likelihood that students enroll in much needed support and services but also causes “disproportionately higher rates of anxiety, depression and toxic stress.” Educators from Gandara and Ee’s (2021) study further discuss how children and youth often leave school “crying” because they fear their parents have been deported during the school day. Other educators reported consistent fear and anxiety about parental deportation and family separation.

Naturally, increased enforcement impacts immigrant student’s academic performance, ability to attend school and their motivation/aspirations. However, the effects of immigration enforcement on schools does not end there. Research demonstrates that nonimmigrant students are also being indirectly affected by immigration policies, experiencing acute sadness and despair as they worry for their friends and classmates. In their book Schools Under Siege: The impact of education enforcement on educational equity, Gandara and Ee write, “If students arrived at school weeping or the student disappeared for several days due to ICE action, other students in the same classroom would show concern and be affected” (p. 39).

These negative emotions experienced by students extend to teachers, counselors, social workers, and other school personnel tasked with caring for them. Educators report experiencing, in their own words, “secondhand trauma.” Without guidance from their district or county, educators are often left to educate themselves on immigration enforcement policies and how they can better support their students. Already overworked, educators are strained and at greater risk for burnout which effects instructional efficacy.

Educators also report a deteriorating trust among their colleagues and school community. With an increasingly polarizing political climate, there is also increased suspicion among colleagues about who they can trust to protect their immigrant students.

If immigration enforcement policies and anti-immigrant ideology remains stringent after the midterm elections, it will undoubtedly increase the already hostile environment many of our nation's schools have towards educators who conservative lawmakers are censoring for teaching historical facts, restricting the books they utilize in instruction and threatening unemployment for affirming the gender identity of their students.

Despite conservative politicians’ insistence that they want to preserve small government and return schools to parent control, the “culture wars” they have waged across US schools continuously place ALL students and educators in the crossfire. The next time you hear an ad talking about an “invasion” and “replacement,” we urge you to think about your neighborhood school and the added burden it will place on the children and educators who learn there. As you head to the polls, remember, immigration is also an education issue.

Be sure to follow us or tweet about #ImmigrantEdNext

Suggested Citation: Lopez-Escobar, L. & Rodriguez, S. (2022, November 8). Midterm elections are here: Immigration policy and enforcement effects as voters head to the polls. Immigrant Ed Next.

Copyright © 2022: Sophia Rodriguez, Immigrant Ed Next-All Rights Reserved

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