Recent heated discourse about immigration has reached new levels. The past several weeks has been filled with news about children been separated from their parents at the border. Some have gone as far as calling it a refugee crisis and comparing it to Japanese internment camps during World War II. However, for young people fortunate enough to come to America, a host of other challenges (e.g. learning a new language, assimilation) await, namely in schools. Couple that with the current administration’s tough stance on illegal immigrants and school can become a toxic environment.
A recent NY Times piece shed light on students who are facing deportation after arrest from ICE agents. There has also been stories of parents getting detained by ICE agents after dropping their children off at school. Schools, more than any other place, serve as a safe place from the troubles of the world. It is one of the places where most of us feel most comfortable and safe. So imagine being an undocumented student and trying to learn against the backdrop of possible detainment. Even more troubling are rumors that some school administrators and staff have been complicit in informing ICE agents about undocumented students under their supervision.
The plight and challenges that undocumented students face is all too familiar to me. I didn’t speak a word of English when I first came to America and as a result, I faced some initial challenges with my academic work. Due to my lack of English skills, I struggled to assimilate even though there were enough Spanish speakers around me to make life comfortable. Through help from peers, coaches, and educators, I was able to enroll in college.