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  • Enable educators and administrators to support intergenerational success, college readiness and completion, family engagement and lifelong learning.

  • Create educational environments where immigrant heritage and cultures are embraced.

Background and Community Input

Close to half (46.6 percent) of San Diego County’s children are living in an immigrant family, and of all the children enrolled in public schools, a little over one in five are English language learners (ELL) (or 111,284 as of 2016). Schools are among the most important and most accessible places where U.S. and foreign-born families interact and they often serve as the primary point of reception for newcomer families. This dynamic was demonstrated throughout our community forums held at San Diego public schools, where foreign-born and U.S.-born families participated. From these residents, we learned that immigrant parents’ dreams are often tied to their children’s opportunities to quality education. There are also desires for children to meaningfully connect to the culture and heritage of their parents and grandparents, and to become competitive in a globalizing world. In San Diego, there are also unique needs for groups such as trans-border youth who are U.S. citizens living in Mexico and attending school in the United States, and children in refugee and asylee families who might have experienced trauma and the interruption or lack of formal education.

of San Diego County’s children are living in an immigrant family...

& of all the children enrolled in public schools…

1 in
are English language learners (ELL).

Community forum participants, many of whom are parents at the San Diego Unified and San Ysidro school districts, pointed out large barriers such as language and culture gaps that prevent or discourage them from engaging in school activities, unknown or lack of coordinated programs for the parents to learn English and professional skills, and for some, the threat of immigration enforcement and fear of bullying and cultural insensitivity.

Residents would like to see more partnerships with cultural, civic and other community-based organizations to invest in the success of immigrant parents, and for school districts to provide more resources toward cultural responsiveness, English language learners and pedagogy that values different cultures and languages, curriculum and programs to address and prevent issues of prejudice and bullying, and resources that address the social-emotional needs of children and their parents.


9. Remove barriers to existing education programs for children and adults and expand family engagement and support.

Short-Term Strategies (Year 1-3):

A. Convene leaders from K-12 school districts, private and charter schools and higher and continuing education to strategize on immigrant integration objectives in the local education system.

B. Promote best practices in multicultural family engagement, parental leadership development and intergenerational programming to encourage appreciation of family history and culture.28

C. Support and partner with First 5 San Diego to encourage immigrant parents to read to their children in the language they are most comfortable with, and to promote school readiness, social-emotional well-being and family engagement in health and education systems.

D. Utilize public libraries as hubs for adult learners to access information and referral services such as immigration and legal services, voter guides and classes for English and citizenship, and expand programming such as naturalization ceremonies, computer skills training, learning lounges for career mentoring and job search, citizenship corners, storytelling workshops for immigrants and art exhibits and film series that showcase immigration stories.29

E. Promote cross-border engagement with Tijuana-based parents of San Diego students by convening teacher trainings, parent-teacher conferences and other youth development workshops, partnering San Diego educators with Tijuana’s CBOs, educators and places of worship.

F. Increase immigrant access to higher education through readiness programs, college visits and admission tests and application preparation, and increase first-generation college student degree completions through support in academics, social-emotional health and familial and peer relationships.30

G. Collaborate with adult education consortia funded under California’s Adult Education Program to identify opportunities to improve immigrant access to, and success in adult ESOL and other foundational skills classes.

Long-Term Strategies (Year 3-5):

H. Increase budget appropriation toward initiatives that engage and empower immigrant and refugee parents and interpretation at key meetings and events at the school districts.

I. Improve access to and completion of adult education for immigrants to support their transition to community college or employment through adult education, labor union programs and community colleges.

J. Provide technical and financial assistance for immigrant caretakers to open and maintain licensed home-based childcare programs, in order to expand culturally-responsive and accessible early education for immigrant communities.31

K. Grant the right to vote for noncitizen San Diegan adults for local school and community college board elections, and actively recruit members from local immigrant and refugee communities to university advisory boards.32

10. Enhance multicultural curriculum in K-12 education and increase supportive services for newcomer students.

Short-Term Strategies (Year 1-3):

A. Develop curriculum that includes civics, immigration history, ethnic studies, religious literacy, trauma, cross-cultural competency and anti-bias and tolerance education in line with Common Core social-emotional and college and career readiness standards.

B. Enhance and coordinate year-round tutoring, newcomer orientation, counseling and behavioral health services, and create a directory and schedule of these programs.

C. Enhance and expand summer academies for students who have experienced trauma, family separation and/or interrupted education to develop social and emotional skills, prepare for entering school and practice leadership and cross-cultural communications. 34

D. Promote the San Diego Promise program (free two-year tuition to first-time, full-time students) and other free and low-cost programs to immigrant residents through the San Diego Community College system.

Long-Term Strategies (Year 3-5):

E. Align immigrant integration goals with San Diego’s Local Control & Accountability Plan, Adult Education Consortium, county-level goals and statewide global education and language learning objectives

F. Establish a pipeline for immigrant and refugee adolescents to complete certificates in ESOL/VESOL, high school diploma/equivalency and career training with additional numeracy and literacy training and wrap-around supportive services to equip opportunity youth and students with interrupted formal education.

G. Graduate a majority of San Diego’s students with the State Seal of Biliteracy.

H. Align school districts’ goals with the Global California 2030 initiative, encourage heritage language acquisition for early learners and increase the number and range of world language programs and dual-language immersion programs.

11. Increase professional development and deepen partnerships between school districts and immigrant community organizations.

Short-Term Strategies:

A. Enhance professional development training for educators on being allies and supporters of immigrant students and families.

B. Partner with PTAs, libraries, recreation centers and other community spaces on cultural events, immigrant integration workshops, English/citizenship corners, foreign language materials and multi-generational programming for immigrant families.

Long-Term Strategies:

C. Increase school districts’ budgets for promoting professional development opportunities in cultural responsiveness, trauma, cultural humility, anti-bias education and immigrant family engagement.

D. Work with administrators and school boards to make “welcoming” an intersectional value that creates inclusive environments for other marginalized or vulnerable youth such as ethnic, racial and religious minorities, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ and non-binary students.

28  Guide: Building Welcoming Schools, Welcoming America (
29  Best Practices: Collaborations with Libraries Offer New Learning Opportunities for Immigrants, World Education (
30  Local Examples: Barrio Logan College Institute (
31 Guide: Enhancing Child Care For Refugee Self-Sufficiency, BRYCS ( Local Example: IRC Childcare Licensing ESOL Program (Pg. 6
32 Example: San Francisco registers non-citizens to vote for local school board elections (
33  Example: California State Assembly Bill 2772 seeks to require and fund ethnic studies for middle and high schools ( Best Practice: No Place for Hate, Anti-Defamation League ( Resources: Facing History And Ourselves (
34  Local Example: IRC San Diego’s REACH Program