Immigrant and Undocumented Students: Crisis in Our Classrooms
By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin and Photos by Kim Sanford
Frightened, anxious immigrant students try to focus on education
Editor’s note: All year we’ve reported on how educators are handling students with trauma stemming from natural disasters, poverty and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has added an additional traumatic layer to students’ lives, particularly for immigrant and undocumented children and youth (see sidebar below). Click here for ways to connect with and teach all students during this challenging time.
“Every day when my parents go work, I’m afraid they won’t come back,” says a girl, her voice shaky. “It’s scary to know they could take your parents away from you. My parents have sacrificed so much to give us a better life.”
“My neighbors always had big smiles on their faces,” recalls a boy. “But after the dad was deported, everybody was very sad, and they seldom went outside. Our community has changed.”
“My father was detained by ICE, and they put him in jail,” says a boy on the verge of tears. “After a year he couldn’t tolerate jail anymore and said he’d rather be deported, and he was. My family is afraid. When police and immigration officers come to our door, the adults hide, and the kids talk. We are just kids and we’re dealing with legal issues, and we have no idea of what to do.”
It’s 8 a.m. at Hoover High School in San Diego, and Mario Valladolid, a resource counselor for the Restorative Justice Practices Department, is holding a community circle in a classroom for some 30 students to share their anxiety about immigration issues and draw strength from one another. They are also learning about their rights so they’ll know what to do if immigration officers come to the door. (See sidebar below.) Some students are undocumented. Others have undocumented relatives.