Gaining a foothold through education is a rocky road for any immigrant group, but even by those standards New York Mexicans are finding the transition especially hard. Kirk Semple of the New York Times reports that, according to recent census data, 41% of all Mexicans in New York City between the ages of 16 and 19 have dropped out of school. To put this in perspective, no other major immigrant group has a dropout rate higher than 20%. Among Mexican immigrants between the ages of 19 and 23, only 6% are enrolled in college. In addition to faring worse than other immigrant groups, Mexican immigrants in New York are faring far worse than Mexican immigrants in other parts of the United States, and as Mexicans are the fastest growing immigrant group in the city, leaders find this data troubling.
In large part, the issues seem to stem from the ambiguous status of Mexican immigrants in this country. Semple writes:
Many Mexicans are poor and in the country illegally. Parents, many of them uneducated, often work in multiple jobs, leaving little time for involvement in their children’s education.
Some are further isolated from their children’s school life because of language barriers or fear that contact with school officials may lead to deportation.
Unlike some other immigrant populations, like the Chinese, Mexicans have few programs for tutoring or mentoring.
“We don’t have enough academic role models,” said Angelo Cabrera, 35, a Mexican immigrant who runs a nonprofit group that tutors Mexican and Mexican-American students in the basement of a church in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.
Many young illegal immigrants in New York City say there is no point in staying in school because their lack of legal status limits their access to college scholarships and employment opportunities. Some drop out under the erroneous belief that they are not eligible to attend college. (Illegal immigrants who graduate from a high school in New York State or earn a G.E.D. are not only allowed to attend the state’s public university system, but are also eligible for in-state tuition.)
“They just give up,” said Karina Sosa, 22, a Mexican-American undergraduate at Baruch College and an education activist.
The nature of the immigration debate in this country serves to dehumanize and alienate, which unfortunately seems to be having real life consequences for the children of immigrants whose parents find themselves uninformed about their actual rights and the resources available to them, and afraid or unable to seek help; it’s awful that groups of people are coming to this country to provide better lives for themselves and their children, only to wind up feeling unable to help their children take full advantage.
There are groups devoted to helping, though.
“The loss of talent, of human capital, was simply an educational catastrophe, one that CUNY had no intention of ignoring,” Mr. Hershenson said.
Over the past several years, CUNY, as well as the Mexican consulate in New York, several advocacy groups and others, have established afterschool tutoring, college-readiness and scholarship programs; college admissions and financial aid counseling for students and parents alike; and college fairs aimed at the Mexican population.
The New York Immigration Coalition recently started an initiative to bring more immigrant parents into the schools. Early efforts, in collaboration with the Mexican consulate, focused on Mexicans.
These programs have already yielded some gains, advocates say. In 2000, for instance, the high school dropout rate among Mexican immigrants in the city was 47 percent, six percentage points higher than the current rate.
“There are very few of us working on this problem,” said Mr. Cabrera, who founded his nonprofit organization, MASA-MexEd, after years of struggling to stay in school and get a college degree while also working to support himself. “We have thousands of students who need the support, and we can only provide the support to hundreds.”
Read the original article here to learn more about this staggering issue facing Hispanic youth in the City, and find out how to help.
Photo Credit: Brian Harkin