Toolkit: Helping Immigrant Families Navigate Migration Decisions and Schooling in a Different Country

Schools play a unique role in providing support and information for immigrant students and families, many of whom are English language learners. Regardless of their own immigration status (or that of their parents), all K-12 children have a right to access a free public education across the country – a right established by the Supreme Court Case Plyler vs. Doe.

In addition to providing that support, many educators are being approached by families who are considering a complex set of decisions: whether to stay in the U.S., where they may have lived for many years, or to return to their home countries. A significant factor in these families' decisions is their children's education. These questions can impact immigrant families regardless of immigration status. However, they are particularly complicated for:

  • mixed-status families in which at least one member of the family is undocumented, and
  • families whose members have participated in programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). 

Dr. Sarah Gallo is based in Mexico, where she has met numerous families who have recently moved from the U.S. and have children enrolled in Mexican schools. She has collaborated with Colorín Colorado to compile her observations and recommendations for families and U.S. schools serving these families into a practical, research-based toolkit. While the information is specific to Mexico, many of the recommendations and even forms could be adapted to serve other countries, in consultation with educators who know the educational systems of those countries well.

This toolkit includes the following documents:

◦ Challenges and opportunities for students of all ages who study in two countries
◦ Considerations that can impact families’ decisions
◦ Recommendations for schools in communicating with families
◦ Steps that schools can take to support families who return to their home countries

  • Tips for parents in both English and Spanish
  • A sample letter (Word | PDF) that schools can use to report on student records in English and Spanish, along with guidance on providing such a letter
  • A flier detailing information that parents need about Mexican documents in both English and Spanish

Examples and quotations from families interviewed by Dr. Gallo are included throughout this document. Please feel free share this toolkit with colleagues at the school, district, state, and national level.

Note: Educators who wish to share information related to schooling in other countries are welcome to contact Dr. Gallo: slipinog(at)

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