Immigrant children face challenges of new school, country, language

A Gwinnett educator, recalling her own experiences as a young immigrant, writes about the challenges of being a new student in a new country, something common in diverse districts like Gwinnett. (AJC File photo)

An educator with the Gwinnett County Public Schools, Nury Castillo Crawford was born in Peru but migrated to the United States as a child. In a new children’s book, Crawford finds inspiration in her own journey from immigrant to American, a trek that led to an undergraduate and master’s degree, marriage and three sons. Her book is called  “3,585 Miles to be an American Girl.”

I asked Crawford to write about not only about her own experiences as a new child in a new school in a new country, but what immigrant children face today.

By Nury Castillo Crawford

Have you ever had to be the new kid in class? I would imagine the concept would not be one that’s completely strange to many of us. Well, imagine being new not only to a class, but to an entire country. A class where the teacher most likely only speaks a language you don’t know. So, you literally have to learn body language impromptu. Thank goodness, a smile is universal.

That’s what many of our students who sit in classrooms throughout our nation have to live through during their transition from their country of origin to the United States. My bilingual children’s book, “3,585 Miles to be an American Girl,” was inspired by my own journey in 1979 from Lima, Peru, to Columbus, Indiana.

I feel I was fortunate to have migrated here when I did. I recall those initial days in school where everyone looked different from people I had known. At the same time, everyone was kind and patient with me. The other students were intrigued about my skin color so they rubbed their little fingers up and down my arm. They stroked my shiny ebony hair. I believe they were in awe because they had fine blonde strands on top of their heads.

They drew tepees on crumbled lined paper, trying to figure out if I live in one; yet I was unable to decipher what their inquiry was at the time since I wasn’t aware of dwellings used by the plain’s Native Americans. As I reflect and reminisce, I can only chuckle and suspect that those two braids my mom made me every morning really did make me look like Pocahontas.

Educator Nury Castillo Crawford moved to the United States from Peru as a child.

I recall my math teacher the most during that first year in an American school. She carried around an aged, shabby, tattered English-Spanish dictionary. I wonder if she had kept it from her college days. Every time she gave instructions, she would glance at me and quickly look up the translated meaning.  She had the patience of an angel. She never let me feel dumb nor did she ever shun me away for taking longer to process what she said.

The only other immigrant or Hispanic girl I knew in the whole school was my younger sister.  It was just us two at the little elementary school in that quaint town of Columbus, Indiana.

Fast forward to current times where 10 percent of Georgia’s population is born in another country and 1 in 13 Georgians is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. The Hispanic and Latino population in Georgia has grown.

As a state, we have experienced one of the fastest rates of growth in immigration in the United States over the past two decades. This without question has profoundly altered the makeup of our state’s educational institutions. That’s where politics kick in and, since most students have fairly easy access to information via the internet or TV, the immigration debate now underway causes feelings of insecurity and many times feeling of inadequacy because they see and hear the open discourse. The constant outpour of debate, whether pro or con, affects not only our Hispanic and Latino students but also the rest of our student population.

As a life-long educator, I am confident schools remain focused on teaching and keeping all children safe. All the schools I have been a part of are aware of the political turmoil around immigration and make efforts to address concerns with individual students when necessary. Qualified students’ needs are met through counseling, ELL classes, and differentiation through academic support.

Children of illegal immigrants have a fundamental right to a public education embedded within our nation’s policy through the 1982 Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe. To continue supporting all of Georgia’s children, I am hopeful we will strive to see what we have in common, appreciate our differences and learn from one another.

Reader Comments 0

57 comments
Jaylin_
Jaylin_

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        ░A░M░A░Z░I░N░G░ ░J░O░B░S░

°°°°°°http://ow.ly/pqaC30fgvnI 

J L Marketing
J L Marketing

GCPS will just place them on EBD teams .. # as they county leads the nation in charging minority boys of sexual cases. # mostly falsely accused by the unethical educators. #1 COUNTY IN GA for human trafficking....

Starik
Starik

@J L Marketing Maybe BLM will start protesting the charging of kids as young as 13 as adults. That would be useful. 

redweather
redweather

If only there were more teachers like your math teacher.

There is a flip-side to this, however. I tutor non-native English speakers in writing two days a week at a local technical college. If they don't understand an assignment, they use their lack of English language proficiency as an excuse. But many of them show little to no interest in learning English.When I tell them that speaking English at every opportunity will speed the process of learning the language, they look at me as if I've just grown another head.

Starik
Starik

@redweather Interesting, but we can't know which technical college, course of study or group of immigrant students you have contact with. 

redweather
redweather

@Starik @redweather My contact is with students enrolled in remedial English classes and college level English classes. Every student enrolled at the college has to take English, even students who are not pursuing a college degree. This is one of the largest (if not the largest) technical colleges in Georgia.


readcritic
readcritic

Taxpaying citizens face challenges too as they are forced to pay for those who feel that they can break the law by coming here illegally and yet are entitled to what US citizens work hard to earn. Our politicians will do anything to buy votes with "other people's money". Citizens' children are forced to sit in classes that are overcrowded and move at a slower pace to accommodate those who should have no rights to what they did not pay for or acquire legally. It is a drain on our nation's resources to provide housing, food, medical, and dental subsidies along with free schooling to everyone who arrives illegally. The US now has 1 out of every 8 persons here illegally and sucking the life out of our economy. It needs to stop! Also discontinue birthright citizenship (anchor baby entitlements). It is sad when illegals have more rights than the very citizen workers who foot the bills.

Starik
Starik

@feedback1 @readcritic  "It is a drain on our nation's resources to provide housing, food, medical, and dental subsidies along with free schooling to everyone who arrives illegally." Illegal immigrants don't get any of that. "Chain migration" only happens when the family member anchoring the chain is a US citizen. 

J L Marketing
J L Marketing

Yes they are as well as the educators students. Who get the privilege to send there students to any school within GCPS to all more overage...

waitaminute3210
waitaminute3210

@Starik In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court decided illegal children must be allowed to get their education free from public schools through the 12th grade. 

The National School Lunch and Breakfast Program feeds illegal children breakfast and lunch while at school. 

Illegals also get WIC, in addition to public housing. And even though parents are illegal, they get assistance thru our federally funded programs for their children that are born here. Illegals get free emergency health care and more, but I'm already bordering writing an epistle and have made my point. Source: Politifact 

Starik
Starik

@waitaminute3210 @Starik The benefits "illegals" get are to the benefit of all of us, and their citizen children. Once again, we need the workers. 

waitaminute3210
waitaminute3210

@Starik  First you say they don't get benefits. When proven wrong, now it's those benefits benefit us all. Moving the target doesn't equate to credibility on your end. And no, we don't need the workers. Our workers (U.S citizens) can't get a decent wage because illegals undercut the wages. 

Starik
Starik

@waitaminute3210 @Starik Our workers won't do the work. Or pass a drug test. The benefits, few in number, largely benefit their kids. 

MyBad
MyBad

More Leftist talking points.

You’re too underinformed to realize that the wealthy Leftist Elite want a large pool of ignorant, government-dependent workers that can be paid lower wages than middle-class Americans are willing to accept, thereby justifying the Left’s supposedly humanitarian, ‘morally-based’ policies? Yes?

The ultimate irony: young socialists like you don’t understand you are being led about by the nose to support the rich and a widening social divide between the rich and the poor. Bernie will lead us to be Venezuela. But I’m sure your supreme ignorance will prevent you from acknowledging that fact.

LJTCD
LJTCD

@Starik @feedback1 @readcritic You are incorrect Starik. ANYONE who shows up to a hospital or the doctor's office whom is pregnant or delivering and does not have insurance is automatically on Medicaid. The baby is born in the U.S., so it is automatically a U.S. citizen which qualifies for WIC for 4 years. Then, the parents fill out a free and reduced lunch form every year, of which the schools have no way to check if any information is correct, and the children receive free breakfast and lunch from K-12 grades. In addition, the schools are required by law to give each non-speaker a 45 minute segment of ESOL by a certified ESOL teacher and two segments 4th-12th grades.  Each school district is required to have a Supervisor for Title III which is ESOL and they have a staff. Yes, this is costing the U.S. billions of dollars. 

Starik
Starik

@MyBad Bad... Uh, no. I'm 71. Voted for Reagan twice, George HW Bush, a number of Republicans, real ones. Every immigrant group that has ever arrived has faced the same difficulties, and the same hostility from the settled groups of immigrants. Who's the ignorant one? 

Starik
Starik

@J L Marketing Reminds me of the transition in DeKalb over the last few decades... no more neighborhood schools, not even zip code schools. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

The Feds turn a blind eye to illegal immigration.  Then the Supreme Court says that schools have to teach any child that is present, even if here illegally.  The Feds give no money, so the schools have to divert their own resources to pay for the Feds' lack of enforcement.  You and I have to pay extra taxes to fund these schools.  I wonder why Trump won the Presidential election.

waitaminute3210
waitaminute3210

@class80olddog I agree with you, but need to mention the feds do give money to public education. The federal share is about 8%. However, your point is still well taken, those of us who pay taxes fund this. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

If we had better enforcement of our immigration system, Kate Steinle would still be alive.  And her killer gets to go free!

readcritic
readcritic

@class80olddog And what has it cost the taxpayers to incarcerate, provide legal council and trials, and deport him many times? What is wrong with our justice system that provides illegals the right to kill US citizens and then go free?!!!!! Politicians and judges need term limits.

Jill Keirsey Waldon
Jill Keirsey Waldon

We face many challenges in the preschool environment with this issue (add in special needs /behavior support and it rises tenfold) but, we welcome all and ensure duel language support ....amazingly, the little ones are quick learners!

Nury Crawford
Nury Crawford

They're blessed to have caring adults such as yourself

feedback1
feedback1

Wouldn't the cute boy really be better off with his extended family back in his native land, speaking his own language with his teachers?

We're a nation today of 330+ million people and don't need to be importing one million new immigrants each year the way we now do. Especially considering the huge cost to taxpayers for social services, etc.

And the numbers of unemployed and underemployed Americans.

Starik
Starik

@feedback1 We do need these immigrants. They're willing to work at hard, dirty low paying jobs. They support education for their kids. The kids will, mostly, succeed. That's what built this country. 

feedback1
feedback1

@Starik

Employers only use them because they're cheaper than Americans and easier to intimidate when here illegally.

Starik
Starik

@feedback1 @Starik They work harder. They show up for work. They drink or smoke weed after work, if they're inclined to do that. . Good blue collar workers. Their kids will do better.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Starik @feedback1 So if your employer finds someone from India who will work harder than you for the same or less money, you are OK with them bringing in someone even illegally and firing you?

Astropig
Astropig

@Starik @feedback1


"They work harder. They show up for work. They drink or smoke weed after work, if they're inclined to do that. . Good blue collar workers. Their kids will do better."


Their kids won't do better if people like you have any say in it.You seem to like these immigrants because of how little their willing to work for and what menial tasks they can perform to make your life better.When they get that education that they seek,then they will command more money and I'm sure that you'll be done with them.


Yours is the essence of the immoral argument that underlies this debate.In the name of "compassion",your kind want to exploit these people to make your own life comfortable by sidestepping the rules and regulations on hiring,workplace safety and tax reporting so that you can get your roof replaced for half the cost of a legal business quote.


Then, (just like WalMart),you lay the cost of education,welfare benefits and uninsured medical expenses for these people off on the general public and call us "racist" or "nationalists" when we object.


I believe that we need a constant inflow of good immigrant families to renew our dream as a nation.The sight of a family becoming prosperous in a generation or two is insurance that we'll always turn away from statism.But...


When I see hypocrisy like yours being used as cynical public policy,I have to join the side that wants to really tighten up immigration and maybe turn away some of the good ones because  people like you want to exploit them for your own selfish reasons.You are willing to put native-born Americans on the public dole so that you can get your grass mowed for cheap. 

readcritic
readcritic

@feedback1 "Cute" doesn't excuse the fact that all illegals in American schools cost citizens who are paying for education expenses with property taxes. Children of citizens are further shortchanged by being forced to compete for college spaces provided at "in-state" or free tuition to illegals, and the illegals who have benefited from the blood, sweat, and tears of middle class workers never repay the money it took to educate their minions for 12+ years in American schools (at $15K+ per year per child plus ESL language tutors).  Is it any wonder the taxpayers are fed up with the illegal entitlement seekers?!!!.  Fix the country you are leaving or pay your way in the country you invade by properly following the law to earn citizenship. Ask veterans how much help they actually get from our own government when trying to find jobs or get medical care after returning from several tours of duty in war torn countries. It is pathetic that illegals get more sympathy and assistance than those who have sacrificed life and limb to serve their country. What is wrong with this picture?

waitaminute3210
waitaminute3210

@readcritic Wish I could "like" this a thousand times. When we do more for illegals than our own veterans, it shows how ridiculous our mind set has become.

waitaminute3210
waitaminute3210

@Starik And you know this how? I had a major project completed at my home two years ago. The contractor used nothing but Mexicans for the hard labor. I don't know what they did after work (and you don't either), but, I know they drank on the job because I found their beer bottles tossed into the tree line of my property. Some of the work was so shoddy, it had to be redone. Were these workers illegal? Probably, since only one out of the 10 here spoke English and it was broken English. I won't hire another contractor who uses what even remotely appears to be illegals.

waitaminute3210
waitaminute3210

@Starik We exploit THEM??? You don't think we're getting exploited and paying out the nose for those illegally here?

Thank you for your service btw.

Starik
Starik

@waitaminute3210 @Starik What do we pay? In what way do we pay out the nose? Educating kids benefits all of us. Service? I was drafted, and showed up as required, and did what they told me. Not like Bush, or Clinton, or Trump. 

waitaminute3210
waitaminute3210

@Starik You're just being disingenuous now. While I just wrote a long comment above you can refer to regarding how we pay, you and I have been on these AJC blogs before on this topic where article after article was posted from reliable sources that illegals cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars each year. I'm not pulling those cites up again, just because you want to feign ignorance now.

MyBad
MyBad

Why do you think there are so many ‘low paying’ jobs with wage stagnation rampant across all job types? Oh, wait...could it be that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are allowing employers to get away with that?

More Leftist idiocy.

MyBad
MyBad

Facts are the enemy of Leftist ideas, so pretend they don’t exist

Another Leftist lie: That black men are disproportionately hunted down and killed by the police. Factoring in that black men are responsible for a disproportionate percentage of all crime with the resultant increased level of contact with police officers, they are not killed in any higher-than-expected numbers than any other racial group.

Starik
Starik

@MyBad Can't compete with immigrants? Too bad. Immigration is the American way. It's made us great for the past couple of centuries. 

Starik
Starik

@MyBad That's correct.  I suspect the BLM foolishness energized the nutty right wing and helped elect Trump. 

MyBad
MyBad

What a shame. You are like all the retired Leftist friends that I have: Unable to logically understand the consequences to the US of your feel-good, ‘morally superior’ Leftist policies, which cost other people’s money to support, of course....Not yours!

Feelings, outrage, emotions....The Left is a logic-free Zone.