by Gladys Márquez, Blue Island, Ill., high school teacher
Six months ago I wrote an article regarding my concern, as an educator of English Language Learners and an activist, about the mean-spirited rhetoric used by Republican presidential candidates against our nation’s immigrant students, their families and communities.
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At his long-awaited speech tonight on immigration, Donald Trump offered more of the same to those of us who were looking for him to offer a common-sense path forward. Instead, the end result was a reiteration of the same divisive proposals he offered during the primaries.
All students, regardless of their country of origin, have hopes and dreams and aspire to reach their fullest potential in the land they call home. My students, many of whom are DREAMers, who have known no other country than ours and who are American in every way, understand that Trump policies, if enacted, have the potential to destroy their lives and separate them from their families. They live in fear that they might come home some day to an empty house because their parents were detained. They listen apprehensively for any sign of hope for their families and communities, and Trump failed to deliver anything other than more bluster.
Our immigration system is broken. The affects of this broken system on our students can be seen in their eyes. And we are teachers. We look into those eyes.
Unfortunately, the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from Trump has placed our students, their families and entire communities on high alert, resulting in, among other things, increased absenteeism because some families are fearful to send their children to school. Take, for example, his proposal to deport 11 million immigrant children, women and men, including American children born here to undocumented parents.
But it’s more than just rhetoric. Trump opposes providing a path to citizenship for immigrant families. He pledges to repeal the DREAM Act, which allows certain undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children to receive temporary relief from removal and apply for work authorization. He opposes President Obama’s executive actions providing peace of mind to immigrant students and their families. And he opposes sanctuary cities that protect DREAMers and their families. Trump’s support of punitive laws such as Arizona’s “Papers Please” Law, his pledge to abolish birthright citizenship and use of demeaning terms such as “anchor babies” have clearly defined the his lack of empathy for immigrant communities and their families.
These views are contrary to our core values as educators. We believe that all students deserve a great public education. We believe that students, and their families, must not live in fear of deportation or separation but instead be able to learn and contribute to our great country.
The time to act is now. We must organize, advocate for and educate our local communities. We must demand that Trump put an end to the hateful and divisive language directed at our students and their families and instead seek solutions that recognize we are a nation of immigrants.
We can and must make sure this happens — for our students, for our communities, for our profession.
Si se puede!