On October 9, scholar William Perez spoke to an enthusiastic audience at Elmhurst College about immigration, English learners and the future of educational access for Latinos.
Perez brings an abundance of research and a depth of understanding to the national discourse on immigration reform. A native of El Salvador who came to the United States with his undocumented parents at the age of 10, he has devoted his work to telling the story of the nation’s more than 1.8 million undocumented students.
During his talk, Perez described the special struggles of young English language learners, especially those with an undocumented parent or parents. The illegal status of family members and the constant fear of deportation had a deep impact on the children–even those born in the U.S. and not in any danger of being deported themselves.
Perez hoped for a day when English learners would not be viewed as deficient but rather as emerging, on their way to becoming bilingual.
An associate professor of education at Claremont Graduate University, Perez focuses his research primarily on the academic achievement and higher education success of immigrant students. Perez has expanded his expertise through work with such research institutes as the RAND Corporation, the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, and the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute.
His acclaimed book We ARE Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream (2009) was awarded the 2009 Mildred Garcia Prize for Excellence in Research by the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Several of his essays and editorials have been featured in the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune and the 21st Century Scholars Blog.
Perez’s speech at Elmhurst was this year’s César Chávez Intercultural Lecture. It also was part of the College’s Education in Crisis lecture series, a yearlong look at the significant challenges facing American education.