On Immigration and Education: An Interview with Hiro Yoshikawa

On November 10, 2015, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Courtney Sale Ross Professor of Globalization and Education at NYU Steinhardt, will deliver a lecture called, “Being Undocumented in the U.S. and the World.” In advance of the event, he answers some questions about immigration policy and his current research.

How did you come to your work in immigration studies?

As a second-generation immigrant (both my parents are from Osaka Japan), I experienced firsthand the struggles of a working-class immigrant family in the first wave of post-WW II immigration from Japan to the East Coast of the United States.  These experiences are certainly part of my interest in the integration of immigrants into U.S. society.  I didn’t start to work on issues related to immigration though until after my doctorate, when I began collaboration with APICHA, a community-based organization addressing the health needs of Asian and Pacific Islander populations in New York City. That collaboration resulted in research and action projects related to HIV / AIDS prevention among different groups of immigrant-origin LGBTQ populations in New York.  Recently my work on this topic has been part of the Center for Research on Culture,  Development, and Education at Steinhardt, in collaboration with colleagues Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, Diane Hughes, and Niobe Way.

What does the literature say about the educational trajectory for immigrants in U.S. society right now?

Our recent National Academy of Sciences Committee on Integration of Immigrants into U.S. Society summary reports the overall positive integration of second-generation youth in terms of their educational progress.  However, when barriers such as poverty, discrimination based on immigrant status and/or race, low levels of education, or unauthorized status occur in families, immigrant-origin youth experience blocks to their educational progress.

How have issues in immigration changed over the last 125 years?

The numbers of displaced people and refugees in the world are currently unprecedented — 60 million.  Armed conflict and environmental disasters have resulted in unprecedented waves of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, for example, to Europe, with many thousands making perilous ocean voyages and then encountering exclusion or exploitation.  The millions of Syrian refugees (over four million in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq) alone include millions of children, the majority of whom lack access to education.

What project are you most passionate about?

I am very excited about Global Ties, a new center I co-direct with Professor Larry Aber of NYU Steinhardt, which focuses on the development of children and youth in low-income and conflict-affected countries.  Through strategic partnerships with organizations like the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, we are working to ensure that evidence-based approaches to improving youth prospects involve collaborations across researchers, governments, NGO’s, and civil society organizations.

We have so much to learn from researchers, practitioners, and policy makers across low- and middle-income countries, and I am inspired every day by the commitment and on-the-ground work of our partners at local, national, and regional levels.  We’re working with Save the Children to better understand cultural variation in their measure of early childhood development and learning, the IDELA; developing measures of the quality of preprimary education programs with the leaders of Colombia’s national early childhood policy, De Cero a Siempre; and working with the International Rescue Committee to evaluate their efforts to improve access to and quality of education among Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.