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I know what it’s like when people just watch

I’m a retired educator. I spent 25 years in a bilingual school in Boulder, Colorado, where every year, I had at least 20 to 25 immigrant or first-generation students, mostly from Mexico.Some of my students have received DACA since then; some of them even have kids of their own now.

Most of the families came here out of desperation. I‘ve seen this. It’s true. I strongly believe that anyone in their situation would do the same. But beyond that fact, it’s the parents who made the decision to come—the kids had no agency. Why are we penalizing the innocent? And for those kids who are U.S. citizens, taking their parents away from them is cruel. These people play vital roles in our communities. They work hard. They do.

People are really scared right now—the fear in the neighborhood is palpable. Many parents come to school to drop off their children and don’t know if they’ll ever see them again. That affects kids’ ability to sleep, to get nourished, to come to school ready to learn. In turn, that has an impact on everyone in the class—the other kids, the teacher. It doesn’t make any sense to have policies that are prohibiting people from working legally, especially when it affects the mental health of the kids.

I see the depth of the issue firsthand, since I’m now on a rapid response team that arrives on the scene when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers (ICE) come knocking. Just recently, the father of an immigrant family got a traffic violation. He and his wife have two kids who are now in school. They got a knock on the door, but knew to call our rapid response team before they answered the door.Our team went over to help them form a plan.

After that happened, the kids didn’t come to school for two weeks. As a teacher, I know how the fear of being separated from your family—just because of your status—affects the class. It affects everything.

Targeting parents and families and deporting immigrants—especially in the way this administration is doing it, through detention centers, making them wait without knowing—it’s cruel and unusual punishment. These 800,000 DACA students and 11 million immigrants are people with dreams, hopes, and fears who are just trying to make it. It’s the human condition. What’s the benefit of the deportation? These people are not taking our jobs. They’re a vibrant part of our community.

As for me, I’m second generation. I’m the first of my family to complete four years of college. I can identify with people who have family members that speak a different language. I could not look these DREAMers in the face if I didn’t do something. I’m Jewish culturally, and I know what it’s like when people just watch and don’t resist. I was brought up to stand up for those who don’t have power. Families being ripped apart is just so cruel. I know a lot of people whose family members have been deported—it’s really, truly tragic.

I sat in the courtroom with a woman the other day who has a deportation order to see if her stay would be accepted. She has a disabled kid. Hearing her story was so hard. The amount of money it takes to detain hard-working, well-meaning people—is that the best use of our tax dollars?

Through my work with the rapid response team, I've realized it’s important to talk to people to help them understand what is happening in the immigrant community. The people I feel most comfortable talking to are educators—since I’m a teacher, too, we understand each other.

Who’s your group? Who do you feel comfortable with? Talk to them about this issue. Start somewhere. Lives are quite literally on the line. Don’t just watch—it’s time to do something.
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