Re-Imagining Migration by Dr. Carola Suarez-Orozco

Craft in America’s first PST:LA/LA exhibit with work by Jaime Guerrero had a deeply informative closing with a Craft in Action guest lecture presented by clinical psychologist Dr. Carola Suarez-Orozco, Co-Director of UCLA’s Institute for Immigration, Globalization & Education. Dr. Suarez-Orozco, an expert in child, adolescent, and young adult experience of immigration. Her research examines how their development is shaped by immigration and how are they changed by the process. She has considered a wide variety of processes including identity formation, family separations, gendered patterns, civic engagement, and most recently the unauthorized experience.

She came prepared with much needed information and statistics regarding child immigration, integration and transition in the United States. She began by identifying the top reasons why people migrate into other countries: the search for work, violence, war, and humanitarian refuge, environmental catastrophes, and family reunification. We also learned about the top challenges child immigrants face when assimilating into a new place: low parent education and poor work conditions, poverty, and racialization. Dr.Suarez-Orozco also addressed how, in today’s cultural atmosphere, the term “undocumented” creates a stigma that young immigrants must face. She suggested that “undocumented” signifies and emphasizes the illegality of the individual’s status and that has a strong impact on how they are perceived by others as well as an impact on how they view themselves.  She advocated for the use of the term “immigrant origin youth” as a preferable common practice.

In part, Dr. Suarez-Orozco unpacked the immigrant paradox by presenting a model for understanding surprising research that proves that first generation immigrants are more resilient than their children and later generations.

A focus on school settings has been an essential and enduring theme in her basic research agenda as schools are a first contact point between the immigrant child and her family and the new society. Further, education is a critical predictor of current as well as future wellbeing and socio-economic mobility for the most rapidly growing sector of the U.S. youth population. She explained patterns for the successful education of immigrants, and how, to no surprise, high performers have the most resources while those on the low end have the least resources.

Dr. Suarez-Orozco concluded on a positive note with the idea that immigrant communities benefit from collaborating with community organizations in order to help provide education services. She closed her talk with suggestions about how immigrant experiences can be addresses through community partnerships. Among her core suggestions, she noted the important role that art can play in providing a voice and an outlet for expression.  Additionally, she highlighted various ways that art can shed light on topics that are often overlooked or misunderstood in the public eye.

This project is being made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit www.calhum.org.

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