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Counselors: Stress from immigration laws hurts students

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Counselors: Stress from immigration laws hurts students

Anxiety may keep many Latinos from succeeding in college, panel says

  • Greg Eells, director of counseling and psychological services at Cornell University, speaks about the stresses tough immigration laws are placing on Latino students.
    Cronkite News Service screengrabGreg Eells, director of counseling and psychological services at Cornell University, speaks about the stresses tough immigration laws are placing on Latino students.

SCOTTSDALE — Strict immigration laws such as those passed in Arizona and Alabama cause stress for U.S.-born Latino students and those here illegally and can keep them from succeeding in college, a panel of psychologists and student counselors said Monday.

“Besides preventing kids from going (to college), I think the kids who are going, who feel all of this anxiety, will end up dropping out,” said Patricia Arredondo, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Arredondo and others spoke at a news conference organized as part of the 62nd annual conference of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, which focused on the impact of immigration policies on college students.

Arredondo said immigration laws create uncertainty about students’ futures and can keep them from seeking psychological support from counselors on campuses.

“They think these people are part of law enforcement or their parents believe they are part of law enforcement because they are (in the) administration,” Arredondo said. “They will not have the kind of trust and confidence to be open.”

Dan Jones, the group’s president, said even though counselors aren’t required to check immigration status, undocumented students may not seek psychological support because they fear disclosing their illegal status.

“We are bound by confidentiality, so we don’t do that, but it inhibits help-seeking,” Jones said.

The pressure to succeed for students who may be the first in their families to attend college, the fear of deportation and financial pressures create psychological burdens for undocumented students, the speakers said.

They said immigration laws could harm the economy in the long run by deterring those students from graduating from college and getting better jobs.

A study released this summer by the Pew Hispanic Center based on Census Bureau data showed that Hispanic enrollment in colleges increased by 24 percent from 2009 to 2010. As a result, Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 24 outnumbered black students for the first time on campuses.

Roughly a third of all Hispanics in that age group attended college as of 2010, according to the study. Yet Hispanics were overrepresented in two-year colleges and were behind other ethnic groups for enrollment in four-year colleges.

Among all Hispanics aged 18 to 24 years old who attended college, 54 percent where pursuing a bachelor’s degree, well behind whites, Asians and blacks, with respective rates of 73 percent, 78 percent and 63 percent.

Louise Douce, assistant vice president for student life at the Ohio State University, said it’s important for all students to have access to higher education.

“I do believe that the solution to the changing demographics of our society and culture is to educate more people to higher levels of education, to maximize their skill sets, to provide skilled workers for the workforce to really be the engine of the economy of our country,” she said.

Melba Vasquez, president of the American Psychological Association, said offering undocumented students a pathway to citizenship would help the economy as well.

“I think we need immigration reform, we need amnesty programs that can be developed and that identify students, young people who are willing to provide military service, workers who have been here for a while and can demonstrate that they have been contributing,” she said.

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