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Our role as adult educators during the immigration 'crisis'

What can we as adult educators do in the face of the current anti-immigrant hysteria? I suspect that in many classes enrollment is down and those students who do come to classes are very worried and under a lot of stress.

I do not teach in the 'system' but rather work independently. Lately I have been writing articles to publish in various Facebook groups. One article dealt with the false idea that immigrants should all "speak English or go back where they came from!" 

In any case, I wonder how all this impacts upon you, the members of Lincs. 

 

Comments

Shelia Palmer's picture
First

Greetings Mr. Rogers and CAE Members!

It is my belief that we as adult educators have a responsibility to our students to keep the lines of communication open.  Yes, enrollment is down and classrooms are empty; however, if we are going to defeat this problem, we must stay vigilant.  Immigrants/Migrants come to this country for a better opportunity; however when they are exploited by their educators, employers, lawyers, etc. their confidence starts to wain.  Let's be realistic; when we visit/move to other countries do they expect us to speak their language or go home?  Or, is currency the universal language? Advocacy is necessary; however, unless there is some value added to this issue, it falls on deaf ears. Thank you for opening the discussion.

Leecy's picture
One hundred

Thanks for bringing up the issue, Paul.  A lot of people do, indeed, believe, "speak English or go back where they came from!"

On the other hand, thankfully, I don't find adult educators expressing that unreasonable belief, given the nature of the students we serve and our experience that (1) the vast majority of us come from immigrants, and (2)  immigrants have made and continue to make vast contributions to our economies and social frameworks. I hope the message gets out.

As adult educators, all we can do is support our students and encourage them to reflect on who they are, immigrants or not,  no matter what anyone says. I can imagine a lot of lesson plans and activities that stress that topic! Any samples out there? Leecy

Victoria Rainis's picture
Ten

Hello Paul and all,

I have not joined in LinkedIn conversations for quite some time due to family responsibilities. However, when I saw your post, I felt a need to respond. After 15+ years of teaching ESL to adult immigrants with enrollment upwards of 10 to 25 students at any given time, I barely have 4 students for the past 5 months. Now, according to the buzz from my previous students, they are afraid to show up in public. Even those with documentation feel fear that the authorities will either find something wrong with their paperwork or create inconsistencies on purpose. Lately, I heard through the grapevine that many adults in my local area have already been detained and deported and I know of at least two firsthand. I refuse to give up! I continue to make recruitment efforts and give encouragement to all immigrants who will listen. 

Paul Rogers's picture
One hundred

Thanks Shelia, Leecy and Victoria.....it is a sad time, made even more frustrating by the fact that the immigration laws could have been changed or amended to make this situation conform to reality.

A large percentage of US residents will be affected by this ...as far north as Alaska even. Immigrants are family oriented, much more so than many other people, plus there is the network of friends and co-workers. We will all be lessened by this.

 

 

greneau's picture
Ten

I wanted to take a minute to respond to the comments made by Paul and those who have responded. I believe that when we use inflammatory language such as " anti-immigration hysteria" it only serves to fan the fire.  In addition, the statement, "immigrants are more family oriented than others" is a statement of judgement. Is there research to support this or is it simply an  expressed opinion of one person's perception? Comments that support this viewpoint do nothing to answer the question that was asked.

I am not an  immigrant. I am a descendent of slaves. My husband, on the other hand, immigrated to the United States as a child. His mother immigrated in the days when it simply took a sponsor to bring someone over. She worked as a nanny caring for others, while leaving her own eight children in Central America, until she was able to bring each one to the U.S.

What is the role of adult educators during the "immigration crisis"? I believe it is to teach immigrants to navigate life in the United States. This includes learning to speak English, learning American culture while not giving up their own, acquiring workplace skills, rights and responsibilities of citizenship, civic participation, American government and if so desired, naturalization procedures in order to become a citizen.

As my state's  IELCE/IET Adult Education Program Specialist, I understand that English Language Acquisition is necessary to not just survive, but to thrive. With all of its faults, this remains a nation of opportunity.  As adult educators, let us continue to promote environments that provide excellence in education no matter what the circumstances. The first step is to remain positive. Maybe one day we will all be regarded by the content of our character, rather than our fear of other cultures, races, ethnicities etc.

 

Laura Malott's picture
First

Well "spoken". We are here, not to judge, but to help our students navigate and learn the skills necessary to live and thrive in their environment. 

 

Leecy's picture
One hundred

I like it! Thanks. I'll just add one ingredient, for now, to our "role", or responsibility, as educators. Above all, we need to know ourselves. In my view, we cannot begin to understand others until we spend time discovering our own cultural values, for example, not only in relation to immigrants but to everyone. Otherwise, we just dispense information, which is a far cry from educating! Leecy

Paul Rogers's picture
One hundred

Thank you for your message. It contains a number of  points which need to  be addressed. 

You mention my use of certain words and phrases.  Well, my answer is - there is in fact an anti-immigrant hysteria affecting this country right now and my saying so certainly does not "fan the flames". How could it?  My opinion that "immigrants are more family oriented than others" - is based on my experience and, yes, it  is a 'judgement' ...It is not necessary for me  or anyone to rely on research to form our opinions.   

I hve been teaching ESL for many years and nearly all of my students are like your mother-in-law: poor working women with school-age children. It is very difficult for them to attend regular classes generally, but to make matters worse, last year many classes for beginnners were cut at the adult education facilities.   

I agree with you that our role should be to help them learn to speak English and to learn about American culture. But that has become very difficult to do at this time not only because of cutbacks but because of the climate of animosity most immigrants face daily. 

So in my opinion our "role" has changed. The question looms as to what we should do as teachers.   

More and more cities are becoming Sanctuary Cities, and many churches have also become sanctuaries. I believe that classes for immigrants should also become do the same. 

As a young man I became a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, an experience which has stayed with me my whole life. At the present time not only do I teach immigrant adults English as a Foreign Language, I also teach them their legal rights, including the 4th amendment. 

I believe the immigration law should be changed so that those who have been here for years working and raising families should be given amnesty while they apply for a visa that will give them legal status to live here. I also believe that funding should be greatly increased to  provide classes to low-income adults who want to learn English.

And I think that educators should stand in the forefront of supporting their students at this time.

greneau's picture
Ten

Hello Paul,

Thank you for your comments and some clarifications. You now refer to the role of educator as "changing". Educators still educate; how they do this and where they do this may need to change based on current circumstances, on this point, I agree. Educating immigrants on the rights and responsibilities of all aspects of life in the United States is one of the best ways to help. Increasing literacy rates and language acquisition, so that people can read for themselves gives power to those facing discrimination and possible deception. Educating immigrants on how to successfully navigate the systems in place in the American Government, is standing up for them.  When people are  empowered to also stand up for themselves it is done through educating them. Yes, budgetary cuts and fear have made this more difficult to do. However, we must focus what we can do, and then do it. 

In your initial post, you did not qualify that it was in your opinion and personal experience, that immigrants are more family orientated than others. It was stated as fact. We are all free to express our opinions. As you well know, freedom of expression is a right. I respect your right to express your views and I hope you will do the same for others.  I do not not necessarily disagree with what you are saying. It is more so the manner and words in which you chose to express yourself . I stand by my previously stated point of view.

Paul Rogers's picture
One hundred

G. Reneau: Your replies to me border on secondary, personal "issues". The principal issue is what should we as ESL teachers do in the face of the current immigration crisis. I am in favor of the "sanctuary city / church" approach, as I mentioned. I am very interested in seeing what others think.

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