5 questions educators are asking about ICE raids and supporting immigrant youth

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Use this sample Safe Zones school board resolution to create a policy for your school district. Click here ›

Recent Executive Orders and ICE raids have caused fear and confusion in immigrant communities. Last week, NEA hosted a call with the National Immigration Law Center and educators from across the country. The questions asked on the call are ones we are hearing again and again. Here is some of what we heard.

What do I tell my students who are scared for themselves and their family members? — Jack, New Jersey

Educators are in a key position to reinforce that schools are safe spaces and that all students have a right to an education. It is also okay to also acknowledge the uncertainty that students are feeling. This one page guide from Teaching Tolerance provides key tips for supporting students in school including additional tips on how to spot trauma.

Undocumented parents are reaching out to me because they want to make a plan for their children in case they are deported. What can I tell them? — Rosa, California

It is important that parents update school forms noting the persons approved for picking their children up from school and any student medical records and waivers are up to date. It is advisable to gather all of the child’s important documents in one safe place (i.e. passport, social security card, medical records, etc). The National Immigration Law Center’s Educators’ Guide offers information and materials educators can use to assist students and families.

In addition, for longer term planning around their child’s custody in the event of a detention or deportation, parents should contact local immigrant support organizations (sometimes available through churches, workers’ rights centers and legal defense organizations) to find appropriate family law services. Where possible, families may want to designate alternate/temporary guardians. This guide by Ninos provides a checklist of questions for consideration and forms for families fearing separation from their children.

What can schools and teachers do when the parents of our students are picked up by ICE? — Patricia, Ilinois

Some educators are working with school counselors and community groups to set up rapid response teams. The team can triage immediate needs for students and ensure that trusted individuals are ready to be responsive at a very traumatic time. Building relationships with parents and community organizations now is an important place to start. The National Immigration Law Center’s Educators’ Guide offers information and materials educators can use to assist students and families.

How do we get resources and information to a broader audience of educators and allies? — Emily, Maryland

Educators in Austin, TX are providing training to their colleagues so they know how to speak to their students about the current raids and other immigration actions. They have also worked with school administrators to get approval to provide Know Your Rights leaflets in student folders. Permission to use school buildings also requires approval, but activities off site in community centers, churches, and libraries are not considered employment based activities and do not require approval from the principal or district. For a Know Your Rights power point presentation adapted from Education Austin, please email your request to NEAedJustice [at] nea.org.

My students are afraid to come to school given the reports of ICE raids around the country. What can I do? — Janice, Florida

Educators, parents and community groups can also bring school Safe Zones resolutions to their school boards to define ICE accountability measures in and around school grounds. If students are expressing fear at school, get an academic freedom paragraph like the one we have in our sample resolution to ensure teachers can discuss issues like this in class. Get the NEA Safe Zones resolution and FAQ here.

You also can make sure that your local elected officials are hearing from educators about how the threats of raids are impacting your students and schools.

Reader Comments

  1. ‘There, by the grace of God, go you and I.’ And what, pray tell, would you do if you lived in a war-torn country? Would you stay there and watch your children suffer or would you risk everything to find a safer place for your family? It’s called desperation. People have been doing it since the beginning of time. This country has been sought out by victims of starvation, repression and persecution since the 17th century.
    If you’re going to get on your high horse and complain about immigrants stealing from us, perhaps you should visit a Native American reservation. Or maybe you should read Maimondides, Lao-Tzu or the Bible: ‘If you give a man a fish, he will be hungry again tomorrow. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for his lifetime.’
    Patriots make our country strong, no matter what the challenge. We teachers, and many others, know that educating EVERY child is an act of patriotism. We love our country and the principles that formed it. ‘ All men are created equal.’

  2. How terrible it is that the United States, once considered to be the land of the free and the home of the brave is now cowering in fear that refugees, many of whom have fled death and persecution in their homeland, are now considered to be a threat. Many have come here believing that the United States welcomes immigrants, as it often has in the past, but does no longer. It is a cruel irony that immigrant populations have a lower crime rate than citizens. It is a cruel irony that the United States has the largest prison population of any nation in the world, and refugees are thrown into detention without regard for their rights as human beings to a fair and timely hearing, their cases unheard indefinitely because the wealthiest nation in the world cannot afford to employ enough hearing officers. How terrible it is that the Trump administration is only increasing these injustices.

  3. There seems to be an awful lot of confusion with regard to those here illegally. People who illegally entered this country have no right to be here, are not citizens and do not warrant protection as citizens. They need to be sent back to their homelands. Anyone here illegally is a burden on this country’s tax payers: taking money from schools and the ability to educate children of those here legally. Why is that so difficult to understand?

    1. MarineBob – Once again, you need a reality check Bob. It’s not our job as educators to inquire about immigration status or become a de facto deportation force. That’s the job of ICE. In the meantime, ALL children illegal or not, have a right to an education and I will try to the best of my ability to provide it. What are you going to do? Sit in your classroom until your undocumented kids magically disappear from their seats? Are you ready to shoulder the cost of a deportation army and a useless border wall? Strange how Republicans who are normally fiscal conservatives have suddenly become tone deaf to the astronomical cost of deportation versus the cheaper solution of providing a path to citizenship for these people.

      1. If a person is here illegally, that person, child or not, does not have a right, nor do they rate the privilege of a free, American , public school education. How can any rational person accept that someone here illegally has a right to a free public education? How can it possibly be acceptable that a person who broke the laws of this nation has a right to live here?

        Oh wait, some people think those laws are unjust. I suppose we should all just pick and choose which laws we think are unjust. Apparently that is a liberal interpretation of how a nation of laws ought to be managed: pick what ever law you think is just or unjust and do what ever you want based on your rationalization. Never mind that we have a constitution that established how we create and enforce laws.

        Most analysts who do not make judgment based on feelings, but facts, support the notion that ridding the nation of those here illegally will have a net positive economic effect. The downside is that deporting those here illegally will make liberal thinkers feel bad. Might need more coloring books.

        How can any real American support the idea that someone who came here as a criminal, a violator of our laws, become a citizen? In fact there is a path provided for people from other countries to come here legally. Go back to your homeland, and then follow the laws of this nation and you can become a legal citizen like thousands before. Come here, learn the language of America, renounce your former citizenship, accept American customs and laws. Then you can become a citizen with all the rights and privileges.

        Good plan, thwart the plans and efforts of the president as he enacts legal actions that you don’t like. Maybe that would be a great lesson to teach in a classroom. Ignore the law. Perfect.

        1. MarineBob – An educator’s job should be to teach kids w/o passing judgment on their lives. Although the parents may be here illegally, their kids are the innocent victims. They didn’t ask to be placed in this situation. Why should I deprive them of help as a result of circumstances beyond their control? You can quote all the laws and net positive economic benefits you want. It’s not in my job description to become a deportation flunky for this administration.

        2. Do you prefer we WASTE 25 Billion dollars with walls and another 25 billion dollars on deportation armies and freight cars herding 12,000,000 people into cattle cars like the Germans herded the Jews ? If all tbr lawbreakers in this country were prosecuted, Wall Street would be a ghost town. Do you propose only the powerless lawbreakers be singled out while the rich thieves get to ship their stolen hedge fund TRILLIONS to the Caymans sitting right next to the vaults of Putin and Trump ? 12,000,000 people and their AMERICAN BORN children will take a lot of cattle cars and waste all my tax money. The Califormia. Georgia. and Florida agricultural economies would collapse at harvest time. Get real, not be a Pharisee Jesus hated.

        3. MarineBob: I think everyone reading your comments understands your point of view perfectly. While it may make you feel better, the more venomous you get, the more disapprovals you earn. With that in mind, I encourage to write even more. Please do. It strengthens our resolve. I know how much you’d like to get in the last word.

          1. It always does make me smile and somewhat dismayed to see the sad excuses written here for what it means to be an American. Strengthen your resolve to do what? Break more laws you do not like? I do like to get in the last word because you really do need to hear truth and facts, not bask in your liberal hogwash that makes you feel good.

            I do especially like the disapprovals when a question is posed. Makes one wonder if people understand a question versus a comment.

    2. Everyone can think of a law that is unjust. It may be that you were fined when your parking meter expired. It may be that you were ticketed for driving 10 miles an hour over the speed limit on a stretch of road that you felt was safe. It may be that you feel that some other poorly written law or one that is misinterpreted impacts you personally and you feel the sting of unjustice. Laws are challenged and overturned in courts all the time usually because they are in violation of higher laws, because they violate the will and spirit of the people, because they are inherently and ultimately wrong.

      Dr. Martin Luther King wrote: “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust… One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” I cannot say it any finer than that.

      I am a teacher and I am compelled from within to protect my students. I am driven by a deep and moral conviction that will not be overwritten by the dictates of a soulless, mean-spirited tyrant who leads with spite and division. I will do everything I can to tangle the legs of the stupid giant and bring him down with a thud that will echo for decades to come. And I know I am not alone in this conviction.

      1. I am driven to follow the law. My wife works for the Department of Homeland Security. If I knowingly had a student who was here illegally in my class, I put her job, possibly my job, and probably my marriage in jeopardy.

        People who are here legally have nothing to fear. If you follow any laws in this nation, you have nothing to fear.

        And, just so the facts are out there, the only people being deported are those who have criminal records.

        1. You can’t attract the attention of the masses unless the real truth is embellished. Got to get the liberal thinkers all worked up with fake news and misleading headlines

          Since there seems to be a desire to change topics, Why did the DNC leaders require ID checks before they held a vote? Kind of racist isn’t it?

      2. Do what you must, but Lady Liberty has a blindfold on for a reason. Unfortunately, there are consequences for breaking the law. Are some innocent people affected? That is a possibility. Ask the child of parent who murders another human being. The result is that the family is torn apart as the murderer will go to jail. Following our laws may be a novel idea to some, but they are our laws and they must be followed. If something couldn’t be worked out with with our government then a responsible parent would take their child(ren) and go back to their homeland and come in the legal way. The family wouldn’t be broken and the problem is solved.

        1. Why don’t we follow our laws putting the thieves of scams like Trump “University” in jail along with all the too big to fail Wall Street thieves who destroyed MILLIONS of lives ?

    3. It is hard to understand when a single or divorced mother of kids ages 6, 8, 10 BORN IN AMERICA gets a jaywalking ticket and gets deported leaving her honor student children as orphans/wards of the state. What happens to the new trailer their mom bought and paid for working two jobs ? What about the fact the mother is from Bolivia. Where will she be deposited like last week’s newspaper ? We are better people than this. Christians should not mock Jesus by being cruel to families God loves.

        1. MarineBob – Bob, If you’re an educator as you claim then your lack of empathy is shocking. In particular, where innocent school age children are concerned like in the situation which David has described above. Facilitating, instructing, and encouraging all kids to learn should be your focus, but you certainly don’t seem to care much about them unless they can produce the right immigration papers. Maybe you should’ve been be a border patrol agent instead of a teacher.

          1. Every legal citizen is in effect a border patrol agent. If you saw a robbery, an illegal act, or a rape, would you report it to authorities? But since some people don’t seem to like the nation’s immigration laws, rather than get the laws changed, they just ignore them. Now that’s a good lesson to teach. Ignore the law. Even worse, the disrespect for the law is flaunted. Disgusting.

            1. MarineBob – This is pure nonsense. A robbery or rape is a crime capable of being reported on its face but there’s no way to know 100% from looking at someone that they’re here illegally. What’s going to be your criteria as a citizen for contacting authorities? “Hey officer, there’s a person here that doesn’t LOOK like a citizen to me?” I’d like to see how far that cinder block flies.

              Citizens are NOT de-facto border patrol agents. Depending on where you’re located even some local + state police agencies don’t have the power to ask lawfully stopped or detained people about their immigration status. It’s mainly a federal jurisdiction.

              In your zeal not to ignore the law, you’ve proceeded to ignore facts and common sense.

          2. You are right, I have no empathy for illegal aliens. Unless one is an illegal alien it would be impossible for that person to have empathy. Perhaps sympathy, but not empathy.

            My concerns are lawful actions. If I had information, not looks, but information that a person was here illegally, I would report that to the Immigration service. Not exactly guessing who is illegal.

            I care about those here illegally only to the extent that they are living off my taxes and are people who fled their own country and have not pledged allegiance to this country. That is a problem. If you are here living off this nation’s freedoms that person needs to be here in a legal status with complete and total dedication to the United States, not half baked appreciation for our handouts.

            1. MarineBob – The parents may be lawbreakers but it’s the children, OUR students and YOUR students, who are the innocent victims here. As educators, the kids are really our sole concern. They are the focus of our mission. That’s what weighs heavily on the minds of many educators’ in choosing to protect them. We’re not interfering with ICE in the performance of their duties, but it’s not our job to do their job.

  4. When I went to Russia, Egypt, Vietnam,Cambodia and China I had secure a visa and pay for entrance. Why are we doing anything else here in our land? This is the question I would ask of a student that was afraid of deportation.

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