By Ruth M. López

1184 More than 16,000 people attended this year’s largest gathering of scholars in the field of education research, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C. from April 8 to 12. With a conference theme entitled “Public Scholarship to Educate Diverse Democracies,” organizers of the conference – including AERA President Jeannie Oakes – hoped the meeting would “illuminate and enhance the role of education researchers as public scholars who contribute to public understanding, political debate, and professional practice in increasingly diverse democracies in the U.S. and around the globe.”

I, along with AISR colleague Jaime Del Razo and former AISR colleague Jaein Lee (now at Harvard University), had the opportunity to co-chair and organize an Invited Presidential Session entitled “Public Scholarship and Immigrant Students and Families: Leveraging Community and Research Partnerships.” The goal of our session was to weave the theme of the conference around public scholarship to this critical issue in education: the education of immigrant students. Focusing on the education of undocumented students and students from mixed-status families, we recruited a panel of immigrant advocates, scholars, and a journalist to discuss the potential of public scholarship to advance equitable, research-informed policies and practices around immigration and education. Our panel included:

  • Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, Wasserman Dean, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (Moderator)
  • Laura M. Bohórquez García, Dream Educational Empowerment Program (DEEP) Coordinator at United We Dream
  • Roberto G. Gonzales, Assistant Professor of Education, Harvard University
  • Apolonio Morales, Political Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
  • Samuel Orozco, National News and Information Director, Radio Billingüe, National News Programming
  • Sandra Osorio, Assistant Professor, Illinois State University, College of Education, School of Teaching and Learning

I had the honor of introducing the session and our panel, and I emphasized the need to address the intersection of immigration and education in this country. I shared how immigration does not only impacts adults, but is also faced by students both in and out of schools. I also shared a bit of the current context facing undocumented immigrants and the children of undocumented parents: mass deportations, unaccompanied minors escaping violence in Central America, and anti-immigrant sentiment. The goal of our session was to show that one sector alone cannot solve the issues facing immigrants in this country, but that it will take intentional collaborations among groups such as those on our panel.

Dr. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, our moderator, then opened up the hour-long session with a discussion of the global issues facing immigrants, reminding the audience that migration is part of human history and is what brought all of us to this country. Each of our panelists then talked about their area of work and how research and community partnerships have been important in their work. In the discussion, panelists reminded researchers to make their research accessible and that they have a responsibility to bring their research back to the communities in which they work. As an example of best practices, the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP) was highlighted to demonstrate how to include a community as a true partner in research. The discussion also covered the need for teachers to include student voices and discuss the reality of immigration with children in the classroom.

1183 The session was attended by over 150 people, and we asked the audience to share questions and comments on Twitter via the hashtag #AERAImmigrantRights during the moderated panel. The results and a preview of this rich discussion can be seen on this Storify link.

As a result of the insightful points made by our moderator and panelists, my panel co-chairs and I felt that people left with a better sense of how those of us working in education can work with and for the immigrant community through partnerships and collaboration. Overall, this presidential session provided important and critical discussions around many intersectional issues impacting immigration, including globalization, law, journalism, health, and school policies and practices.

Ruth M. López is a senior research associate in Research & Policy at AISR.