Crossing Borders toward Young Transnational Lives

Crossing Borders toward Young Transnational Lives

G. Sue Kasun (Utah State University, USA) and Cinthya M. Saavedra (Utah State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4928-6.ch012
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Young immigrant youth often live their lives across borders, either by physically crossing them for return visits and/or by metaphorically crossing them through social media and cultural identification. The authors argue these students are better understood as transnational, shifting the focus for educators away from imagining their immigrant students on a straight, one-way path to assimilation in the U.S. to understanding these youths’ abilities to cross borders. Specifically, they call for a redesignation of English Language Learners (ELLs) as Transnational English Learners (TELs). Highlighting examples of educators’ successful border-crossing work, the authors call for educators to cross borders as well in their curriculum and relationships with transnational youth.
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In a non-ESL, non-bilingual education 2nd grade urban classroom in Texas, I asked the students to raise their hands if they had been to Mexico in the previous year. Well over half of the students said they had.

“Wow, you’re world travelers,” I said to them. Many of their faces brightened at the notion which positioned them positively, as agents of movement.

Their otherwise kind, 3rd generation Mexican American teacher laughed dismissively and moved on with her lesson where I was a visitor. My heart sank (GSK).

In this chapter, we argue that immigrant youth are not only immigrants on a one-way journey toward the U.S., but that they are transnational (Sánchez & Kasun, 2012). Transnational youth may physically cross borders to sending countries, but they may also figuratively cross them through communication with families and communities as well as through the consumption of media, from social media to music to film (Basch, Glick Schiller & Szanton Blanc, 1994; Wolf, 2002). They are the children of families whose lives straddle borders in real time and in ways that connect past, present, and future through families’ hopes, fears, and dreams (Appadurai, 2008). Herein, we outline a call for educators to reframe immigrant youth as transnational. We then offer suggestions for curriculum shifts, which acknowledge and draw from young immigrants’ transnationalism in an age of globalization. We draw from ethnographic examples in our own research with youth and our own lived, transnational experiences spanning national borders. Finally, we make recommendations for educators to cross epistemological borders (Mignolo, 2000) in order to work more effectively in solidarity with their transnational young students and families.

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