Two Generations of Educational Progress in Latin American Immigrant Families in the US: A Conceptual Framework for a New Policy Context
In 2006, millions flooded the streets of the major cities of the US in pro-and antiimmigration demonstrations sparked by congressional efforts to reform federal immigration laws. Throughout 2007 and 2008, the specter of immigration reform has continued to be a focal issue in the presidential campaign. As the rhetoric on both sides has grown more heated and the debate has become more contentious, immigration from Latin America into the US looks more and more like it will replace other historical race/ethnic conflicts to become-to borrow a term from W.E.B. DuBois-the new problem of the century. In the eye of this raging storm is the growing population of Latin American immigrants in the US. Migrating north in search of the fabled American Dream, they now constitute a large under-class, experiencing high rates of social and economic disadvantage and facing limited prospects for social mobility. The young children of these Latin American immigrants-millions and counting-symbolize the risks of this great socioeconomic disadvantage but also represent the best long-term hopes for improving the socioeconomic prospects of this growing population. One charge for the partnership between social science and social policy, then, is to figure out how to help translate these hopes into reality. Doing so will serve the interests of these young children and the larger Latin American immigrant population while also promoting the social cohesion and economic productivity of the nation as a whole. In this chapter, we argue that education is the key to such policy efforts-not just the education of children but the education of their parents too. In this spirit, we put forward a conceptual model that we have developed during our research on young immigrant children over the last several years. The purpose of this conceptual model is to serve as a template for organizing social and behavioral research that supports policy and intervention targeting the growing Latin American population.