Speaker: Education vital to immigrant children, America’s future


Wednesday night, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, professor of globalization and education at NYU Steinhardt, gave a speech concerning the Latino youth in America and the impact of education on this demographic in honor of Caesar Chavez, an advocate of Latino civil rights during the 1970s and 1980s.

According to Suárez-Orozco, Latino immigration populations have risen 100 percent since 1990. There are around 150 million Latinos in the United States today and they make up the largest minority demographic. Two-thirds of these Latinos are immigrants or children of immigrants. As such, Suárez-Orozco expects to see the impact of current immigration policy in the coming years as these children pursue an education.

“Children have parents who might be unauthorized immigrants,” Suárez-Orozco said. “They will grow up under this shadow.”

He said many people living in the U.S. face this problem, even here in Manhattan.

“I hope this problem can be fixed,” said Nelly Gomez, freshman in apparel and textiles. “I have family who are dealing with immigration so I’d like to see it fixed in my lifetime.”

Suárez-Orozco emphasized that immigration is not only a problem in the United States, and many countries are facing mass migrations of different populations as a result of globalization. Suárez-Orozco said it all started when man first moved out of Africa.

“Migration is what makes us man,” Suárez-Orozco said.

Of course, this is not the first time the United States has faced mass migration. Suárez-Orozco said that mass globalization started when the Soviet Union collapsed and the world experienced a boom in immigration. Back then, immigration rates were higher than the estimated 1 million immigrants who now come into the United States each year.

“Migration is both our history and our destiny,” Suárez-Orozco said. “But this also creates xenophobia.”

According to Suárez-Orozco, the first immigration problems occurred back in colonial days, when there were mass movements of Germanic people to the New World.

“Even Benjamin Franklin worried that they would not be able to integrate,” Suárez-Orozco said. “But then they did.”

After the Germans, Irish immigrants flocked to the United States as a result of the potato famine in the 1800s. The Irish population faced many of the same problems that Latinos face today, such as discrimination and prejudice. Today, however, the Irish are an accepted part of the demographics of the United States.

“It’s funny looking backwards and seeing all their struggles,” Suárez-Orozco said. “It’s the question of are they going to change our country or will they adapt?”

The key, Suárez-Orozco said, is education. Educating the Latino population involves giving children of immigrants the tools they need to succeed later in life, despite their lifestyles or family structure. Education helps bring children into the society as citizens and gives them the tools to think independently about important issues of the day.

“If you can’t think autonomously, then it’d be like you’re under a dictatorship,” Suárez-Orozco said.

Suárez-Orozco claimed that these immigrant children will fill a void in the American economy when the generation of the baby boomers will go into retirement, which makes it important to ensure they receive a quality education now.

“They will fill a void in the workforce that needs to be filled,” Suárez-Orozco said. “Our future is literally in the hands of immigrant children.”

Suárez-Orozco hopes that by making this a well-known issue, these children will grow up with the tools necessary to be a successful citizen and to face global problems in the future. However, recent budget cuts could affect their education.

“It’s an unfortunate reality, and the message of the data is that you have to be conscious of how cuts will have ripple effects in the future and moving forward,” Suárez-Orozco said. “It’s easy to cut now and not think about the consequences of cutting programs that you know have long-term positive effects.”

To conclude his speech, Suárez-Orozco claimed that discussing education is the beginning of solving the problem of immigration, not the end. As more and more immigrants come into the United States, it will make diversity a commonplace idea in major cities.

“The lecture was amazing,” said Rosemichel Joseph, freshman in open option. “He gave some really great information about immigration in our country and globalization and how it affects our population.”