Saturday, April 05, 2008

Researcher: Education Key Immigrant Success

Here's a link to download the entire study "Immigration in Arkansas" -Patricia

New Fraternity Reaching Out to Hispanic High Schoolers

By Dan Craft | The Morning News
April 3, 2008

FAYETTEVILLE - Daniel Diaz and Alejandro Aviles weren't surprised to hear Thursday that children of immigrant families sometimes struggled with access to education.

After all, they've been trying to get information about the value of college to Hispanic families around the region for several months.

"Immigrants generally have incredibly high educational aspiration for their children, but other factors can make attaining that education difficult," said Donald Hernandez, a sociology professor at State University of New York-Albany. "Many children of immigrants struggle with the English language, but if we can make them proficient, their bilingual skills give them a huge potential."

More than eight in 10 children of immigrants have at least one parent with limited English skills, while about half those kids are proficient in both English and their native language, Hernandez said.

That's where Aviles and Diaz hope to make a difference. Last fall, they helped found the University of Arkansas chapter of Phi Iota Alpha, a national Hispanic fraternity.

Much of the groups outreach work involves meeting with high school students and their parents to encourage kids to enroll in college, Diaz said.

"We can tell them how it went for us, answer their questions," Diaz said. "Sometimes, it's as simple as translating, because we're bilingual and a lot of this paperwork doesn't come in Spanish."

Educating immigrants and their children could also help society in an economic sense, said Hernandez, who co-authored "Immigration in Arkansas," a comprehensive study of the state's immigration trends funded by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

While immigrants end up contributing more in taxes than they take in services, the biggest single cost immigrants place on the state is in education, Hernandez said. He estimated Arkansas spent $186 million on educating immigrant children in 2004.

"I'd argue that this isn't really a cost, but an important investment in Arkansas's future workforce," Hernandez said. "As more of them gain higher education levels, they're also going to contribute more, and be less likely to commit crimes or otherwise cost in other areas."

By 2030, half of all children in the U.S. will be non-whites, and 'a healthy percentage" of those children will be first- or second-generation immigrants, Hernandez said.

"Immigration is changing the demographics of America," he said. "We're all immigrants some number of generations ago, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that these are our children, America's children."

Hernandez served as study director for the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine's Committee on the Health and Adjustment of Immigrant Children and Families, and has been a special assistant to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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