Awareness of Immigration Policy May Impact Classroom Behavior

Student in counselor's officeImmigration policy may affect the classroom behavior of U.S.-born students of Latin descent, according to a study published in the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies. The study looked at how awareness of a controversial Arizona immigration bill affected classroom behavior in male and female students. The study found male adolescents who were aware of the controversial legislation were more likely to be disruptive in the classroom.

Males of Latin descent have the highest high school dropout rate, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

How Immigration Policy Affects Behavior

The study examined how awareness of Senate Bill 1070, not the law itself, affected classroom behavior. SB 1070 required police to verify the immigration status of arrested or detained people based on “reasonable suspicion.” Critics said this supported racial profiling. The Supreme Court declared the most controversial parts of the law unconstitutional. It was never fully enforced. This suggests the policy and social implications of legislation can change behavior even when that legislation is not enforced.

The study looked at 689 male and female Arizona middle schoolers of Latin descent. They gathered data on the students at two separate intervals, one year apart. Using a multiple regression analysis, they looked at how awareness of SB 1070 affected classroom behavior.

Higher male awareness of SB 1070 when researchers first surveyed students was linked to more behavioral issues a year later. Boys who knew more about the legislation had more difficulty following instructions and staying quiet. These behavioral issues can affect academic performance and might be a factor in the high dropout rate among male students of Latin descent.

The study’s authors suggest students who view legislation as discriminatory may change their behavior in response to this discrimination.

Immigration Policy and Mental Health

Other studies support the link between immigration policy and changes in behavior. A 2014 study, for example, found fear of police may prevent people of Latin descent from calling 911 when they have cardiovascular symptoms. A 2015 study found anti-immigration policies can undermine access to health care services, including mental health care.


  1. Arizona’s SB 1070. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Martinez, O., Wu, E., Sandfort, T., Dodge, B., Carballo-Dieguez, A., Pinto, R., . . . Chavez-Baray, S. (2013). Evaluating the impact of immigration policies on health status among undocumented immigrants: A systematic review. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 17(3), 947-970. doi:10.1007/s10903-013-9968-4
  3. Santos, C. E., Menjivar, C., Vandaalen, R. A., Kornienko, O., Updegraff, K. A., & Cruz, S. (2017). Awareness of Arizona’s immigration law SB1070 predicts classroom behavioural problems among Latino youths during early adolescence. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 1-19. doi:10.1080/01419870.2017.1311021
  4. Study: Awareness of controversial Arizona immigration law influenced male students’ classroom behavior. (2017, May 22). Retrieved from

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  • Kasey


    May 24th, 2017 at 11:59 AM

    As hard as you may try to keep kids from hearing about what all is going on if this is a concern for them then of course it will spill into other parts of their lives. Schools and teachers need to be more aware of this now than ever before. These are children who are not just worried about what they will wear for school the next day… they are trying to figure out if their lives are going to change form everything that they have ever known. I hate it that there are so many people who stand to get hurt from these new policies that are being enacted and enforced.

  • terrence


    May 25th, 2017 at 10:31 AM

    I shouldn’t have to be afraid of being deported and arrested just to call and ask for help from an agency like 911

  • bridget


    May 28th, 2017 at 12:58 PM

    If there is any kind of concern and uncertainty in any child’s life then I would guess that the classroom is one of the very first places that you are going to see some traces of that coming through. I don’t think that most children know how to hold all of those emotions and feelings inside so when there is uncertainty in the home there will be many times that this will come out in an environment where they might otherwise feel safe. It is important to keep an eye on the things that are happening in your students lives and I know that this is asking a whole lot of teachers but for so may you are their lifeline and we can’t take that kind of responsibility very lightly.

  • Selena


    May 29th, 2017 at 8:20 AM

    I am pretty sure that right now teachers do not feel that there is very much support out there for them as they try to help any child whom they encounter in this situation.

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