Equity Literacy Project


White concrete outdoor wall with a black graffiti stencil of a bear dressed in a hat and coat and holding a traveling suit case. The bear is made in the likeness of Paddington Bear a famous fictional character from British children’s literature, and known for traveling. Above the bear the word Immigration is crudely stenciled and misspelled I-M-I-G-R-A-T-I-O-N. Below the bear the words Is Not A Crime is stenciled. The word Immigration is captioned over the image at the very bottom in black bold text.INTRODUCTION

Contributor: Tiffany Marquise Jones

In the current climate, immigration has become a politicized and polarizing topic. And often it is because of the discourse around immigration in the media that discrimination is circulated and taken up in other institutions. That being said, education is one site that has been (consciously and subconsciously) marked as responsible for promoting and achieving assimilation of American language, culture, and ideologies. Of course, this is not a direct mandate of pedagogical practices for language instruction – or even for other subjects. However, American attitudes around standardization and English-only ideologies often breed discrimination and marginalization both inside and outside of the classroom. As such, L2 English learners are often at the mercy of negative (language) attitudes and misinformed teaching practices that result in languagelessness and statelessness (see Language). The classroom which should be deemed a safe space becomes a hostile learning environment where L2 learners struggle to achieve and operate in a middle-space between their home country and the new country’s ideal. Thus, this section will seek to outline the discussion around (im)migration and the ways in which histories and processes around the subjects make their ways in the classroom as well as how teachers can achieve a more equitable praxis. [to be revised by author at a later date]

Student Voices

Undocumented Children in Schools

Imagine having to worry if your parents will be home when you get home from school because of immigration status issues. Some families in the United States are dealing with this every day. In the United States, immigration has become a growing issue that to some is more important than others. A lot of the time, many people are not really informed about what some of these families have to go through and will right away make assumptions. I am concerned about this topic because I have noticed that there is a lack of opportunities in schools for undocumented children. Also, I have a cousin that is personally affected in schools and education by her documentation status. The way the media covers undocumented children also contributes to a misperception of their struggles and what they have to go through. Immigrant children usually have different opportunities than people who are not undocumented. Starting from elementary school, there were other children that, without being aware, were discriminatory towards children that were not white. I can vividly remember my sister telling me that one of her friends was going to have a birthday party, and almost everyone that was white in her class was invited to the party but she was told by her friend that since she was Mexican she wasn’t sure if her mom would be okay with that. From that young age, she was already being discriminated against in her classroom, making it an uncomfortable feeling. Also, in high school, not officially, I had heard many times being said, “I’m going to go to the Mexican hallway” when referring to the ESL hallway. This seemed very weird that they would mention a part of a school as a certain race. It seemed as if they were being labeled as different from other kids at that school. Even though you would hear and see this around the school, there was never really a curriculum that talked about Mexico or how the border really was. That could have changed the perspective that children have toward the people that are undocumented and where they really came from. There are also many stereotypes that you always hear and that are said when talking about immigrants. Some people have stereotyped immigrants as rapists and drug dealers which negatively affects everyone that has that status even though most are not even close to being what is being said or have to do with it. Growing up, I had a cousin who was brought undocumented to the United States when she was a very young child and wasn’t aware that she was being brought here illegally. Her learning was a lot different than the typical high school student’s because she was actually placed in a lower grade than what she was supposed to be since she had come from Mexico. She was indifferent and lower class because of her language, and it seemed as if they didn’t know where to properly place her. This made it more difficult for her because she thought she wasn’t doing as well as she could’ve if she would’ve gotten more help from the school. She has always been dedicated and very hard-working but there were not a lot of opportunities for her. When it came to federal aid when going into college, she got no financial help. When trying to start college, she had many goals that she wanted to accomplish, but she says that she thinks she had to do double the work of an American student in order to achieve the career she wanted. Social media is a big influence on how immigrant children are being portrayed. For example, every week there are stories of children being brought to the United States illegally, and it is seen as a very big crime while the parents just want a better life for their children and want them to succeed. There are stories about children that are being held in facilities even when it is not their choice. The more positive stories of undocumented children, like, someone finishing their career or doing something good are not really mentioned or talked about in the mass media. The media portraying undocumented children a in bad way will only cause more discrimination in schools because some people will take this as a pass to talk about them more critically and possibly even make fun of them. Not only students but even teachers could talk about any of the media that is seen in class, and it can be hard for those students in that situation to listen to it or have it talked about in front of them. Most teachers are not really aware of all that is going on with immigration and with this they will not know how to deal with questions about it or students that are in this situation. Immigrant students have been an important topic to me because they have inequitable opportunities in learning than other, documented American students have. My cousin has experienced being undocumented in the United States and having to learn at a lower grade level as a result. Which is a metaphor for having to work harder to get to the same place and it would be harder to achieve a higher level of learning. Social media portrays undocumented children in a negative way, which leads to an unwelcoming environment for all of them at school. The students also suffer from discrimination in the classroom and this causes them to have trauma and can develop mental issues. This is an ongoing inequity that is concerning because there is not a lot of positive change toward immigrant students and no help for them


Status (United States)


A person who is seeking or has received political asylum. [1]


A status that recognizes a person’s rights and duties of a citizen. [2]

Conditional Resident

A status that expires within a two-year period that is granted to one who is married to a US resident.


Status of a person who is entering the US on a temporary basis.


A person who flees one’s country to a foreign country by seeking safety.

Stateless (person)

“Someone who, under national laws, does not enjoy citizenship.” [3]

Permanent Resident

Permanent basis rights given to one who resides in the country.


Status of one who resides in the US without legal documents.



“The status of belonging to a particular nation, whether by birth or naturalization: the nationality of an immigrant.”[4]


The quality or fact of one being an individual person. [5]

Transnational (Identity)

Individuals who live between two cultural identities.

Vulnerability (w/ in migrant context)

An individual’s state of being due to past experiences as victims of violence, abuse, and exploitation.


Chain Migration

The process by which one acquires legal status (citizenship or a green card) and sponsors the members of his family for admission. [6]

Circular Migration

 “A repetitive legal migration of the same person between and two or more countries.” [7]


The process through which one comes to live in a country they are not yet citizens of.

Irregular Migration

An entry into a country that breaches the regular laws,  and often associated with undocumented immigrants.

Orderly Migration

“The movement of a person from his or her usual place of residence to a new place of residence, in keeping with the laws and regulations governing exit of the country of origin and travel, transit and entry into the host country.”[8]

Step Migration

Gradual type of migration that occurs in stages.

Place and Space


A large group of people migrating from the same country to other places around the world. [9]


“The movement of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters.” [10]


Transformation occurring as movements of people, goods, and ideas among countries and regions increase greatly.

Society and Culture


The process of adapting or borrowing traits of another culture. [11]


 “The process whereby individuals or groups of differing ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture. [12]


A practice that controls and dominates another group of people or country.

Country of Origin

The country which one comes from.


“The process by which one learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values.” [13]


The process by which an immigrant becomes accepted into a new society. [14]


“A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.”[15]



One who speaks two languages fluently.

Linguistic Competence

A native speaker’s knowledge of grammar and vocabulary.

L1 vs L2

 L1 – refers to a person’s native language or mother tongue, while L2 is a foreign language that the person learns, or a non-native speaker. [16]


One who communicates using many languages either through speaking, writing, or signing.

Ethnocentrism and Discrimination


 A form of intragroup stratification generally associated with Black people in the United States but present among all peoples of color. Colorism subjectively ranks individuals according to the perceived color tones of their skin.


Using one’s personal values and ideas in regard to their own culture to assess another culture.


Fear and/or hatred of strangers or foreigners.



Audiard, Jacques, director. Deephan. Why Not Productions, 2015.

Brooks, James, director. Spanglish. Columbia Pictures, 2004.

Chung, Lee Isaac, director. Minari. Plan B Entertainment, 2020.

Coppola, Sophia. Lost in Translation. American Zoetrope, 2003.

Crowley, John, director. Brooklyn. Finola Dwyer Productions, 2015.

Luketic, Robert, director. Legally Blonde. MGM, 2001.

Nair Mira, director. The Namesake. Mirabai Films, 2007.

Riggen, Patricia, director. Under the Same Moon. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2008.

Weintraub, Jerry, et al. The Karate Kid. Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2010.


Osei-Twumasi, Olivia, et. al. Immigrant-Origin Students in Community College: Navigating Risks and Reward in Higher Education. Teachers College Press, 2019.


  1. “Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America's Most-Trusted Online Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/.
  2. “Citizenship Definition & Meaning.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/citizenship.
  3. “Statelessness - United States Department of State.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, 1 Dec. 2020, www.state.gov/other-policy-issues/statelessness/.
  4. “Nationality Definition & Meaning.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/nationality.
  5. Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/.
  6. “Chain Migration: Federation for American Immigration Reform.” What Is Chain Migration? | FAIRus.org, www.fairus.org/issue/legal-immigration/chain-migration.
  7. “European Commission, Official Website.” European Commission - European Commission, ec.europa.eu/info/index_en.
  8. “International Organization for Migration.” International Organization for Migration, www.iom.int/.
  9. “Diaspora - Dictionary Definition.” Vocabulary.com, www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/diaspora.
  10. “Key Migration Terms.” International Organization for Migration, 17 Jan. 2020, www.iom.int/key-migration-terms.
  11. “Acculturation.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/acculturation.
  12. “Assimilation.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/topic/assimilation-society.
  13. “Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America's Most-Trusted Online Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/.
  14. Penninx, Rinus. “Integration: The Role of Communities, Institutions, and the State.” Migrationpolicy.org, 2 Mar. 2017, www.migrationpolicy.org/article/integration-role-communities-institutions-and-state.
  15. Encyclopedia.com, Encyclopedia.com, 17 Aug. 2021, www.encyclopedia.com/.
  16. Morausky. “Home.” Speak to Learn English, 26 May 2020, howdoyou.do/what-are-l1-and-l2-in-language-learning/.


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