Most of our students moved to this country within the last few years. They sacrificed what was familiar in the hope that they would find greater security, stability, and opportunity. They knew it wouldn’t be easy but expected that for the most part they would be welcomed and encouraged to become their best.
A few years ago it would have been impossible to believe that headlines like today’s could be written as fact, not fiction - that we would have so recklessly abandoned our most cherished shared values. So many of President Trump's tweets and initiatives have been racist and dehumanizing, from his attacks on immigrants and Muslims to attacks on women and all people of color. But few will leave as big a stain on our collective conscience as the treatment under this administration of asylum seekers and migrants at our southern border and at detention centers across the country. Recent images like that of tiny Valeria and her father Oscar, and of children crammed into cages, have left many of us heartbroken and asking ourselves, ‘Who ARE we if this is how we respond to desperate families in need?’
It’s natural for many of us to turn away and tune out periodically when feeling overwhelmed by the weight of so much hatred and negativity. Enroot students, alumni, and staff do not have this luxury and must continue to summon fresh courage, resilience, and hope as they face the direct impacts of these forces daily. Even as we express our outrage about the situation at the border, it’s important to recognize how traumatizing the rhetoric and enforcement crackdowns are; not only to our students but also to their families and other members of the immigrant community. Here are just a few real-life examples of the ways the current anti-immigrant environment impacts these beloved community members on a daily basis:
The constant fear that any chance encounter with police or other public officials could result in detainment and deportation.
Enduring physical and sexual abuse without reporting it to the authorities for fear of them or a loved one being deported.
Wondering if a slight delay in the arrival of a parent at the end of a work shift might mean they’ve been apprehended.
Parents insisting their children stay home from school and forego after-school enrichment opportunities.
Enduring open harassment while moving about the city, including fellow students and adults saying things like “Go back to Africa!”, “I don’t want to be seen next to the FOB’s [Fresh Off the Boat’s]”, “Are you even legal!?”, “Trump is going to deport you all!”
Can you imagine how difficult it must be to try to heal from years of trauma experienced before arriving in this country while constantly being bombarded by fresh acts of racism and aggression? Countless studies have documented how this type of recurring trauma is particularly damaging to children and adolescents.
The inhumane conditions at detention facilities, the threatened crackdown, and the many other attempts to instill fear in immigrant families require that each of us stand up with renewed vigor and use our voices to protect not only the dignity of immigrant families but also our very identity as a country. It is not an exaggeration to say this has become a fight for the soul of our nation.
This fight will not be won by simply expressing our frustration and disgust to those around us who nod in agreement.
This moment requires we each stand up, volunteer more time, donate more money, and speak out with more courage and more urgency. Each time they ratchet up their racist rhetoric and tactics we must again raise the volume of our message of love, inclusion, and humanity.
Let's raise our collective voice to a decibel never before heard, in a reaffirmation of who we are - a country that is compassionate and understands that we are strengthened by immigrants every single day.
Please join me and others in the Enroot community in our commitment to fight for the security and dignity of immigrant families each day, in all the ways that we can. Below are suggestions of actions we can each take, today, tomorrow and each day until hatred and fear are no longer in the driver’s seat.
Take a moment to look carefully at the photo I’ve included below. These are immigrant students. They are loving, they are driven, they are spunky, they are wise, they are unselfish, they are resilient, they are courageous. They are future coders, lawyers, inventors, engineers, carpenters, elected officials, pediatricians, accountants, social workers, they are the leaders of today and tomorrow. This is the true narrative of these young people.
Thank you for your steadfast support of immigrant communities and for your activism at this crucial moment in our country’s journey toward equity.