2017 Annual Conference at a glance

Educators are protecting our students and families from the threat of deportation

By Stephanie Presch, Content Editor/Writer

There are more than 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school every year. As the Trump administration has put a target on the backs of all immigrants, educators are being forced to play a key role in protecting these students.

“We have not seen this climate of fear that we are seeing now."

Students who have witnessed an immigration raid or fear they or someone in their family may be deported come to school with severe stress that makes it difficult for them to concentrate and do well in their studies. With all undocumented immigrants a target for deportation, this scenario has become far more common.

“We have not seen this climate of fear that we are seeing now,” said Cesar Moreno Perez, Associate Director of the Human Rights and Community Relations Department at the American Federation of Teachers, during a workshop on protecting students from the threat of deportation.

“It should not be a Democrat or Republican issue—it should be a human value issue,” he added.

Perez emphasized to the audience that all students—regardless of national origin or their parents’ national origin—have a right to public education under the law.

Creating welcoming spaces for all

Areli Zarate, a DACAmented teacher, explained that she has tried to create a safe environment as an educator, and one of the ways she has done this was putting up a poster in her classroom of a butterfly that says ‘Dreamers Welcome’.

She said that while the symbol might mean nothing to someone who was born in the United States, it could mean everything to someone who is undocumented.

Zarate stressed that one of the most important things that an educator can do is to keep an open environment in their classroom. She explained that she is open with her students about her immigration status, and allows students to ask her questions.

She recalled how one student once asked her if she didn’t pay taxes as a DACA recipient, and that it gave her the opportunity to explain that she actually pays more in taxes because she isn’t a citizen, and is unable to access services that are funded by taxpayer money.

She implored that everyone be an active advocate, and that being active can mean voting regularly in elections and working to pass resolutions that protect immigrants. With 10 states asking Trump to end DACA, being active is even more important than ever.

There are more than 80,000 individuals every year who became eligible for DACA across the United States and its territories—but in this uncertain and difficult political climate, they are at risk of deportation and losing everything they have worked towards accomplishing.

“I’ve had students ask me ‘miss, what’s the point of applying to college?’” Zarate explained.

Know your rights—protect your rights

Alessandra Soler, Executive Director of ACLU of Arizona, then walked participants through their rights under law when it comes to an ICE raid or being stopped by police. NCLR has information online at http://www.nclr.org/issues/immigration/resources/rights that explain what to do if stopped by police or ICE.  

Soler told the audience that while in Arizona most of SB 1070 has been dismantled, the “show me your papers” portion remains intact—the most dangerous portion of the law.

Annette LoVoi, Director of the Financial Access and Asset Building Program at the Appleseed Network also shared research that Appleseed has done on the effects of immigration raids on students and their families, but added that there is still significant research that needs to be done to understand the needs of individuals affected by these policies.

The fight is far from over. The future of DACA remains uncertain, and ICE has already detained individuals at schools, despite these protections, notably Romulo Avelica, whose daughter Fatima witnessed ICE detain him as he was dropping her off at school. Back in March, NCLR highlighted this case.

Zarate described what it was like when she learned about DACA and was approved by the program. “I felt like I finally was someone.”

NCLR continues to work for comprehensive immigration reform so that all individuals—like Zarate—can live without fear of losing their family or being kicked out of their own country.