Supporting Students from Immigrant Families
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Immigration has been at the front of the national conversation for years. Many immigrant children experience challenges adjusting to a new country and culture and being fully included in schools. In families without immigration documentation, the fear of family separation, arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and deportation continues to cause anxiety among children and their families.

Immigrant communities and families along with educators want to know how to best support children. We created this resource page to collect and share resources for families and educators. We’ll continue to make updates, knowing that immigration policies and practices in the United States—and the corresponding needs in schools—are continually changing.

Three children sitting in an art class with their teacher.

For Families

Know Your Rights

Protecting Immigrant Students’ Rights to a Public Education (available in Spanish, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Arabic and Garifuna)

Access to public education is a right afforded to all children, regardless of a child’s or guardian’s citizenship, immigration status or English language proficiency. These rights were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe. These resources from the Southern Poverty Law Center can help you advocate for students facing language access or enrollment barriers in public elementary or secondary schools. The following, accompanying resources are also available in multiple languages:

We Have Rights (available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Haitian Creole and Urdu)

This website provides information for immigrant communities about their rights, including their rights in interactions with ICE. This video series offers real-life examples of what to do when ICE is in their homes and communities and if ICE arrests them.

Know Your Rights | American Federation of Teachers (available in English and Spanish)

This set of handouts—designed for use by immigrant students and their families—offers specific advice for how to avoid, prepare for and respond during an ICE raid. The handouts are available in both English and Spanish.

Know Your Rights | AltoTrump (available in English and Spanish)

This series has seven pamphlets that explain undocumented communities’ rights in different scenarios, such as what to do when encountering ICE at home, in the community and at the workplace.

ImmSchools Families’ Hub (available in multiple languages)

This website has important information for immigrant families’ rights, including a Bill of Rights for Parents and information on what rights are guaranteed to undocumented students and their families.

Higher Ed Immigration Portal

This portal highlights important information on access to higher education for undocumented students, including access to state financial aid and professional and occupational licensure policies.

Get Connected With the Southern Poverty Law Center

If you or someone you know is experiencing violations of their enrollment and language access rights in K-12 public school, we want to hear from you. If you have attempted to advocate for your family and the violations continue, please give us a call toll-free from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday, at 1-800-591-3656.

Supporting Your Students at School

Colorín Colorado (available in English and Spanish)

Learn how to support your child in school. The resources provided can help support your child to learn how to read and help you understand how to navigate the U.S. school system and learn how to become connected with the school community.

Growing Readers | Reading Rockets (available in English and Spanish)

This website has free, bilingual tips for parents on supporting their children with literacy (reading and writing) skills.

Reading Tips for Parents in Multiple Languages | Reading Rockets (available in Spanish, French, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Korean, Portuguese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Diné (Navajo) and Russian)

These multilingual tip sheets help parents understand how to support reading in the early ages. The suggestions are low cost and easy to implement; choose the ones that work best for you and your family.

Navigating the Special Education Process

This website has helpful information on supporting your child with a learning disability. Learn about the special education process and you and your child’s rights and responsibilities.

Starting School in the United States: A Guide for Newcomer Students’ Families (available in Arabic, English, Somali and Spanish)

This resource offers helpful guidance for newcomer immigrant and refugee families on navigating U.S. schools. There is important information on registering students for school, how families can advocate for and support their children in school, and how they can get more access to services and information.

Special Education and Your Child: FAQs for Multilingual Families (available in English and Spanish)

This guide can help multilingual families better understand how to navigate special education services. There is a helpful language guide to help you get started on understanding the process and your rights.

Helping Your Child With a Disability Get a Good Education (Louisiana version available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese; Mississippi version available in English)

The Southern Poverty Law Center has created a guide, “Helping Your Child With a Disability Get a Good Education,” to help parents of children with disabilities. Children with disabilities have a unique set of requirements to thrive in any setting, including the classroom. They are legally obligated to be served in a way that suits them best. Their parents and guardians have a vital role to play. These children are guaranteed a “free, appropriate public education”—at no cost to their parents—that meets their unique educational needs. This right is guaranteed under a federal law called the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The process of securing a good education for a child with disabilities is not an easy one; at times, it can seem overwhelming. These state-specific guides can help parents through the process.

Four children sitting in a circle with a teacher.

For Educators

Understanding Immigrant Students’ Rights and Supporting Learning

Best Practices for Serving English Language Learners and Their Families

With sections centered on instruction, classroom culture, policies, and family and community engagement, this Learning for Justice guide is packed with recommendations that can be applied across the school building. This guide also contains important information about policies around language access.

ELL 101

Take a quiz, review some vocabulary and deepen your knowledge about serving ELL students with this brief professional development resource from Learning for Justice magazine (formerly Teaching Tolerance).

Civil Rights Principles for Multilingual Learner Education (available in multiple languages)

This guide helps educators understand how they can protect the civil rights of multilingual learners and create an equitable education system for them. Each principle aims to ensure that multilingual learners and their families fully participate in the education ecosystem.

Protecting Immigrant Students’ Rights to a Public Education (available in multiple languages)

Students and families of all language backgrounds and immigration statuses have the right to enroll in public school and receive language and special education accommodations. Unfortunately, not all schools and districts understand or comply with the rights laid out by state and federal laws. As a result, the Southern Poverty Law Center is grateful to educators who are committed to understanding these rights and ensuring that their schools are fulfilling their legal responsibilities to students and families. Whether you are learning about students’ legal protections for the first time or are an expert advocate looking for additional support, we’ve provided these resources to help.

Translators (available in English and Spanish)

Watch this short film about children who serve as translators and interpreters for their families.

Colorín Colorado (available in English and Spanish)

Learn how to support your multilingual learners here. This website has an ELL Strategy Library as well as other information on teaching and supporting multilingual learners.


Part of knowing your students is understanding their levels of language development and using that information to effectively scaffold and differentiate your instruction. WIDA provides helpful, research-based tools to support, teach and assess multilingual learners.

Teaching About Immigration

This list from Social Justice Books recommends anti-bias books on immigration and the immigrant experience. There are recommended books for K-12 as well as suggestions for educators.

Two young girls clapping in a classroom.

Culture and Climate

The School-to-Deportation Pipeline

When immigration enforcement became more aggressive, schools became increasingly risky places for undocumented students. Learn more about the school-to-deportation pipeline—including recommendations for disrupting it—in this story from LFJ magazine (formerly Teaching Tolerance).

If It Can Happen Here …

This LFJ magazine story highlights a California school district that hosted a “Teach In” as a response to the anti-immigration rhetoric teachers heard in their classrooms during the 2016 presidential campaign.

DREAMers Welcome Poster | American Federation of Teachers (available in multiple languages)

Hang this colorful poster in your classroom and let students know that everyone belongs in your school community.

ImmSchools Inclusivity Poster (available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Haitian Creole, Korean, Punjabi and Bengali)

Download this free poster to show your commitment to safe and inclusive classrooms for immigrant students. The website also has suggestions on how to introduce your students and school community to the poster, as well as tips on building inclusive classrooms for immigrant students.

Re-Imagining Migration

Re-Imagining Migration is dedicated to building belonging in schools for all youth, especially immigrant youth. They have suggestions for how to build a more welcoming culture and climate as well as suggestions for best curricular practices.

Family and Community Engagement

Supporting and Affirming Immigrant Students and Families

Experts from ImmSchools and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project lead this webinar on supporting immigrant students and families. Participants will understand the current realities and challenges facing affected communities. You will learn about the importance of approaching this work with an asset-based lens. You’ll also become familiar with the legal obligations of supporting immigrant students. Finally, you’ll gain insights into assessing current local policies and practices and become familiar with resources for advocating for positive change.

Community Organizing Uplifts Immigrant Students

Tapping into their own agency and communities, immigrant students and their families are finding ways to mitigate serious obstacles.

Help Ensure Immigrant Families Have What They Need

Recent rule changes prompted fearful immigrant parents and caregivers to disenroll eligible children from support services. Educators can help clear up the confusion.

Language Access: More Than Translation

One school district is making language access foundational instead of an add-on, ensuring that multilingual families can fully participate in the school community.


School as Sanctuary

Sanctuary schools and districts work to protect undocumented students and caregivers. This article from Learning for Justice magazine (formerly Teaching Tolerance) profiles several schools with sanctuary policies and offers recommendations for ways your school can commit to keeping students safe. The accompanying toolkit provides concrete steps to incorporate tenets of sanctuary schools into your learning space.

This Is Not a Drill

Educators across the country are taking action when ICE raids happen in their communities. This article from LFJ magazine shows how you can stand with undocumented students and families—whether or not you live in a vulnerable community.

Ask Learning for Justice

This 2017 installment of our magazine’s advice column addresses the risk of school trips for students and adult volunteers from immigrant families; keep these considerations in mind when planning trips, whether domestic or international.

What’s a Sanctuary City Anyway?

This LFJ article answers several commonly asked questions about sanctuary cities and how they have responded to executive orders on immigration.

Immigration ICE Raids | American Federation of Teachers

There’s lots to absorb from this curated package of resources focused on helping families protect themselves during ICE raids and on helping educators speak out against unjust immigration laws and practices.

Walking Undocumented

Wildin Acosta walked across the graduation stage in June 2017—but he almost didn't make it. Read about his incredible journey and the team of student journalists and teachers who helped make it happen, as well as the legacy of their activism.