College-Bound Children of Immigrants

Though the nation’s financial woes and other recent changes have left net Mexican migration to the US at around zero, past decades have seen rapid growth in the population of immigrants, including children and adolescents who are now approaching adulthood. Of the more than 68 million young adults in the US in 2010, about 30 percent were foreign-born or had foreign-born parents. Moreover, young adults made up about half of the estimated 11.6 million undocumented immigrants in 2008.

As these young people prepare to enter the labor market, those who are undocumented often experience greater adversity, even though many have grown up on US soil. Future of Children author Marcelo Suarez-Orozco tells NBC Latino that immigrant parents are motivated to offer their children better opportunities, but those who are undocumented are blocked from access to supports and services that children could benefit from. For example, Silvia Rodriguez, who immigrated to the US with her parents at age two, learned what it meant to be undocumented as she prepared for college. “When it came time to apply for scholarships and financial aid, that was the moment it really, really hit me,” she said.

Future of Children authors Robert T. Teranishi, Carola Suárez-Orozco, and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco argue that increasing immigrant children’s educational attainment and economic productivity should be a national priority and that community colleges are an important means to this goal. They suggest outreach programs to help prospective students learn about the application and financial aid processes. They also argue that researchers and community colleges should collaborate to find and implement the most effective strategies for intervention programs. For the latest research on this topic, see the Future of Children issues on Immigrant Children and the Transition to Adulthood.