Concerns of Newly Arrived Immigrant Students: Implications for School Counselors

By Williams, Franklyn C.; Butler, S. Kent | Professional School Counseling, October 2003 | Go to article overview

Concerns of Newly Arrived Immigrant Students: Implications for School Counselors


Williams, Franklyn C., Butler, S. Kent, Professional School Counseling


The concerns of newly arrived immigrant students include the need for English language acquisition, the lack of social support networks and of social acceptance, racial labeling and categorization, acquiring new learning styles, post-traumatic stress syndrome, different cultural scripts, and the typical development issues that all students face. Also addressed are the typical responses of some educators to newly arrived immigrant students with these issues. The author also discusses implications for school counselors and how school counselors can address the concerns of newly arrived immigrant students at the national, state, and district or local levels.

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As immigrant populations expand in major urban areas throughout the United States, public school systems will be serving growing numbers of immigrant students. School systems in California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania will be most affected (Kellogg, 1988, p. 204).

Kellogg (1988) issued this statement almost 15 years ago. It is just as true today as it was back then. For example, the most recent census data indicate that three of the above-mentioned states--California, Florida, and Texas--along with Georgia and Arizona--had the greatest population gain of any others in the years from 1990 to 2000 (Perry & Mackun, 2000). Further, cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, and Dallas all posted significant gains in population (Perry & Mackun). The majority of the 30 million immigrants (11% of the total population and 43% of all foreign-born residents) that came to the United States since 1990 settled in these cities or in others in the aforementioned states.

It follows that, as a state's total immigrant population grows, so does the share of immigrant students in its school systems. In fact, the percentage of children of immigrants (children with at least one foreign-born parent) in school systems across the country rose from 6.3% in 1970 to nearly 20% in 1997 (Ruiz de Velasco & Fix, 2000). As is the case with officials who are responsible for other social services, the challenge is for leaders of affected school districts to ensure provision of the necessary academic and support services to an ever-increasing immigrant student population.

With specific regard to school counseling and guidance, districts and schools are challenged to ensure that counselors and counseling programs reflect a concern for the special needs of newly arrived immigrant students. McDonnell and Hill (1993) reminded school counseling practitioners that these students cannot be ignored because their numbers will continue to increase. In addition, these students will comprise a key segment of the future labor force in this country (McDonnell & Hill).

This article highlights the issues that concern newly arrived immigrant students from the guidance and counseling perspective, how school systems have responded to these issues, and the implications for school counselors concerning what can be done to better serve newly arrived immigrant students. For the purposes of this writing, newly arrived immigrant students are those who have arrived in this country within the 12 months prior to first enrollment in a U.S. public school.

ISSUES THAT CONCERN NEWLY ARRIVED IMMIGRANT STUDENTS

All newly arrived immigrant students do not face the same issues. Some concerns may be related to their specific countries of origin. For example, Haitian immigrant students might be confronted with racism for the first time while immigrant students from Kosovo might be concerned with the effects of war. Additionally, the circumstances under which some immigrants come to America can vary depending upon their particular financial or social status prior to moving here. Students who are immigrants from very privileged families have very different concerns and needs than those who come from poor families--even if their countries of origin are the same. …

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