ICE has recently kidnapped 5 high school students in North Carolina for deportation, one of them at Riverside High School here in Durham. Please consider calling them in Washington to urge them to release these students, who are now being held in a jail in Georgia. They could be deported at any time. MoveOn.org also has a petition up calling for their release, please sign it.
We at the Durham Association of Educators held an event on Tuesday February 9th to discuss the impact of these deportations and what we could do about it. We heard from Wilden David Guillen Acosta’s mother and several other speakers, including teachers who worked with him at Riverside and shared what a wonderful person he is. Their fear is that Widen David’s life will be taken by gangs that threatened to kill him when he refused to join back in Honduras, leading to his decision to come to the United States. I learned that recent deportation efforts of the Obama administration have focused increasingly on the deportation of children. Of course, as an educator, this concerns me. We were told that children have been crossing the border fleeing violence with increasing frequency over the last few years and that the administration is trying to send a message to deter them from coming. We were also told that if Wilden David were an adult, he would be out of jail and back to work by now. I can only assume that the government looks at children coming to this country as an expense – they must pay for their education – while their parents are an asset whose labor they can exploit and profit from. So parents are separated from their children based on profit ledger concerns, a phenomenon that resonates with the separation of African American parents from their children during the slavery era, as well as during the era of mass/class incarceration, when children and parents are separated when one or the other is “sold” to the prison industrial complex.
We heard from a translator I have worked with at parent conferences in the past who said that one parent she spoke to refused to give her address when trying to register her student with the school district because of fears that ICE would use school data banks to target people for deportation. As the translator tried to reassure her that would not happen, the parent burst into tears and said that she had come to the area because ICE had a warrant out for the arrest and deportation of her 5 year old daughter at her last address. Many families are now afraid to send their children to school – attendance dropped by 20% at Riverside High School after Wildin David was taken. The story of the kidnapping was disgusting: the agents waited outside his family’s house in a car and jumped out when Wilden David came out to get in his car to go to school. They tore off outer layers of clothing to reveal ICE apparel previously hidden. David has a history of health problems and fainted in the back seat of the ICE vehicle, while his family watched from inside the house, afraid to come out for fear that they would be taken too. He has continued to have fainting spells in prison in Georgia and, prior to that, in Raleigh.
We wrote a letter to the School Board here in Durham asking them to take action on both matters of general policy and Wildin David’s case specifically. The school board came through with a public resolution on February 11th, which you can find online here. The Los Angeles Unified School district has taken similar steps recently, steps that other districts across the country should follow.
We talked to some attorneys who worked on migration issues, both locally and closer to the border, (Brian Hoffmann from the CARA Pro Bono Project in Dilley, TX was in town to attend a conference at Duke.) We were referred to some helpful resources I’m linking to here for educators who might be reading this, as well as others who are interested. They spoke about the importance of recognizing the impact of these raids on students and families who are not (yet) taken, and referred us to helpful reading on recognizing the signs of psychological effects such as PTSD in students.
As we all know from firsthand experience, having kids disappear like the six youth who’ve been apprehended by ICE in your area is also traumatic to their classmates, friends and neighbors. Like I mentioned at the meeting, the Urban League, the American Bar Association, and the National Council of La Raza did some studies during the Bush raids in 2007 – 2008 that showed, to some extent, how having a kid in your class arrested/deported causes/exacerbates anxiety issues and leads to negative outcomes for the other classmates.
Here’s some links to what was done back then:
The following books also provide important background about how the drug violence currently going on in Central America grows out of the practice that the CIA made of aligning with drug traffickers to defeat left wing governments and political movements both during and after the Cold War: Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Dark Alliance by Gary Webb, Narcoland by Anabel Hernandez, Empire’s Workshop by Greg Grandin, and American War Machine by Peter Dale Scott. Wilden David’s mother told her audience that her son had never been involved with drugs or any criminal activity. The US government cannot make the same claim, according to the texts cited above.