The Intersection of Race, Language, and Immigration

Nov 14, 2023 | Doua Thor, Vice President of Strategy and Influence

Dear Partners,

Since 2007, Sobrato Philanthropies has been working toward a California education system in which English Learners (ELs) have equitable access to the academic, language, and social and emotional learning opportunities they need to realize their full potential, in and out of the classroom. California is home to more than one million English Learners, including “newcomers” who have been in the U.S. for less than three years. Newcomers can include students with an interrupted formal education, asylees, refugees, unaccompanied minors, undocumented youth, migratory students, and other immigrant children. Many of these students need unique support as they enter school carrying trauma and oftentimes face academic, socioemotional, legal, and other challenges. 

Because these students represent a small portion of the EL population, they are too often invisible and underserved in their school systems. Newcomers arrive speaking many different languages, so the persistent shortage of bilingual educators further limits opportunities for students to have culturally and linguistically competent educators. Newcomers sit at the intersection of race, language, and immigration. As a result, there are immense service gaps and inequities throughout our state. Due to a sparsity of established, research-based practices, it is difficult to adequately address newcomers’ various needs or support their success in school. 

At Sobrato Philanthropies, we have had the honor of working with several partners who are focused specifically on expanding the research and practice base for newcomers—and their work is inspiring.

Even within a population of marginalized students, like ELs, we need to look closer, disaggregate the data, and understand their unique experiences. ELs are not a monolith, and we need to recognize, celebrate, and support their diversity. 

Most sincerely,
Doua Thor
Vice President, Strategy and Influence
Sobrato Philanthropies