Seeking Integration: Austin Refugees And Their Journey Toward Academic, Social, And Linguistic Success
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Since the creation of the U.S. refugee resettlement program with the Refugee Act of 1980 and the emergence several large-scale violent conflicts, such as those in Syria, Somalia, and Afghanistan, the origins of resettled refugees have diversified significantly. With this diversification of background has also come a diversification of pre-migration circumstances. Refugees now being resettled in the U.S. come with a unique set of experiences and varied exposure to educational opportunities. As a result, refugee resettlement agencies and local school districts find it increasingly difficult to fulfill the academic, social, and linguistic needs of refugee students, who each enter a school with a set of unique needs. Obstacles to successful refugee integration are especially challenging in a school atmosphere, where refugee students are confronted with a multitude of additional stresses, such as increased social pressures, academic requirements, and the pursuit of post-secondary options. This thesis will focus on the efforts of one school district, the Austin Independent School District (AISD), to fulfill the needs of its refugee students. The first task is to understand the establishment of the refugee resettlement system in the U.S., its design, and the local schema of actors and services supporting refugees in Austin, Texas. The second task is to provide a description of national, state, and local policies pertaining to the education and academic support of refugee students. Third, I will synthesize existing literature pertaining to refugee education to describe the main pre- and post-migration challenges facing refugee students in the school context. Lastly, I will present the findings of interviews conducted with external service providers in Austin who discussed the main obstacles to integration that refugee students enrolled in AISD schools report they must overcome.