Avossa & Chang: As Immigrant School Leaders, We Know That No Immigrant Student Should Have To Live In Fear

Avossa & Chang: As Immigrant School Leaders, We Know That No Immigrant Student Should Have to Live in Fear

The poem on the Statue of Liberty speaks of a powerful woman with a torch, representing the ideals of freedom and opportunity. These ideals have been an important part of America’s history, attracting immigrants who sought a better life. As immigrants ourselves, we strongly believe in this vision, which is why we are troubled to see immigrants, especially children, living in fear.

Both of us came to this country as children, brought by parents who worked hard to provide us with security and opportunity. Public schools played a vital role in our journey, allowing us to learn and grow. We had to adapt to a new language, food, and culture, but our schools provided the chance to pursue our dreams. As leaders in education, we now have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many more students.

We are grateful for the opportunities we have had in America, but we worry that fear is hindering the opportunities for many children today.

When we first arrived in this country, we felt nervous and fearful, like many immigrants. We wanted to fit in, to learn the language and hide our differences. While some people were unkind, most welcomed us. Our country and our schools made us feel accepted. One of us faced punishment from a gym teacher, but a first-grade teacher reached out to care for a child who didn’t understand English.

However, the atmosphere in schools has changed. We have witnessed a troubling increase in hate and intimidation based on nationality, race, religion, and sexual identity. In immigrant communities, the fear of deportation has grown significantly. Families constantly worry about the possibility of a parent being detained or deported.

These concerns have a real impact on children, parents, and educators. Families keep their children home from school out of fear, and students are unable to focus on their studies due to safety concerns. This affects attendance rates and creates added stress for teachers and school staff.

This is not the kind of country we aspire to be.

Regardless of your stance on immigration policy, we must acknowledge the reality of millions of children growing up in this country. It is neither in our interest nor morally justifiable to deny children an education. While schools may not inquire about citizenship, we all benefit when our children have the skills they need to contribute to society. Pushing families away from schools and into the shadows is detrimental to everyone.

In our own districts, we have taken steps to inform parents of their rights, ensuring that all children, regardless of immigration status, have access to a public education. We have provided key resources to educators and families and offered guidance to school staff when law enforcement officers are involved.

But it is equally important for us as educators to affirm to our students that they belong. We have been amazed and humbled by how much this simple act means to children and families. We have partnered with fellow educators and communities to create safe and welcoming schools and classrooms for all students.

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  • marthareynolds

    I'm Martha, a 27-year-old blogger, volunteer, and student. I'm a graduate of the University of Utah, where I studied communications and political science. I'm passionate about education and volunteer work, and I love spending time with my family and friends.

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