5 questions educators are asking about ICE raids and supporting immigrant youth


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With some children already starting to head back to school, the Trump Administration is sowing increasing fear and confusion in immigrant communities across the country as it ramps up inhumane ICE raids on working families.

In 2017, NEA hosted a call with the National Immigration Law Center and educators from across the country. The questions asked on the call are ones we are hear again and again. As President Donald Trump ratchets up his anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions heading into the 2020 elections, these questions take on added urgency. Here is some of what we have heard:

What do I tell my students who are scared for themselves and their family members? — Jack, New Jersey

Educators are in a key position to reinforce that schools are safe spaces and that all students have a right to an education. It is also okay to also acknowledge the uncertainty that students are feeling. This one page guide from Teaching Tolerance provides key tips for supporting students in school including additional tips on how to spot trauma.

Undocumented parents are reaching out to me because they want to make a plan for their children in case they are deported. What can I tell them? — Rosa, California

It is important that parents update school forms noting the persons approved for picking their children up from school and any student medical records and waivers are up to date. It is advisable to gather all of the child’s important documents in one safe place (i.e. passport, social security card, medical records, etc). The National Immigration Law Center’s Educators’ Guide offers information and materials educators can use to assist students and families.

In addition, for longer term planning around their child’s custody in the event of a detention or deportation, parents should contact local immigrant support organizations (sometimes available through churches, workers’ rights centers and legal defense organizations) to find appropriate family law services. Where possible, families may want to designate alternate/temporary guardians. This guide by Ninos provides a checklist of questions for consideration and forms for families fearing separation from their children. In addition, the American Bar Association offers these “Tips for Safety Planning for Children of Undocumented Parents.”

What can schools and teachers do when the parents of our students are picked up by ICE? — Patricia, Ilinois

Some educators are working with school counselors and community groups to set up rapid response teams. The team can triage immediate needs for students and ensure that trusted individuals are ready to be responsive at a very traumatic time. Building relationships with parents and community organizations now is an important place to start. The National Immigration Law Center’s Educators’ Guide offers information and materials educators can use to assist students and families.

How do we get resources and information to a broader audience of educators and allies? — Emily, Maryland

Educators in Austin, TX are providing training to their colleagues so they know how to speak to their students about the current raids and other immigration actions. They have also worked with school administrators to get approval to provide Know Your Rights leaflets in student folders. Permission to use school buildings also requires approval, but activities off site in community centers, churches, and libraries are not considered employment based activities and do not require approval from the principal or district.

My students are afraid to come to school given the reports of ICE raids around the country. What can I do? — Janice, Florida

Educators, parents and community groups can also bring school Safe Zones resolutions to their school boards to define ICE accountability measures in and around school grounds. If students are expressing fear at school, get an academic freedom paragraph like the one we have in our sample resolution to ensure teachers can discuss issues like this in class. Get the NEA Safe Zones resolution and FAQ here. Also, get familiar with the legal parameters for educators to consider in safely and effectively advocating for immigrant students’ rights by reading the full advisory for NEA members.

You also can make sure that your local elected officials are hearing from educators about how the threats of raids are impacting your students and schools.

Reader Comments

  1. MarineBob understands the realities of the illegal immigrant situation. I’m dismayed at how many on this thread are reacting with emotion, and not paying attention to our immigration laws.

  2. I just don’t understand what the world has came to today if some of the American people would go live in some of these countries and have all there money taken and have to live as poor as these families has had to live its really sick worrying about a little tax money come on man go to there country and live for just a few months lets see how far and American would go they would die because American people for the most has always had everything handed down to them as for the illegal imagrants they have worked since they was babies to support there families America will go to hell for all this cruleneas I have never seen anything like this American people does more crime than migrants has ever though about doing sad guys why don’t you all wake up and try to put your feet in someone else’s shoes because if you did your heart would be very sad Americans are veey very very cruel people that only worry for them selfs and money

  3. ‘There, by the grace of God, go you and I.’ And what, pray tell, would you do if you lived in a war-torn country? Would you stay there and watch your children suffer or would you risk everything to find a safer place for your family? It’s called desperation. People have been doing it since the beginning of time. This country has been sought out by victims of starvation, repression and persecution since the 17th century.
    If you’re going to get on your high horse and complain about immigrants stealing from us, perhaps you should visit a Native American reservation. Or maybe you should read Maimondides, Lao-Tzu or the Bible: ‘If you give a man a fish, he will be hungry again tomorrow. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for his lifetime.’
    Patriots make our country strong, no matter what the challenge. We teachers, and many others, know that educating EVERY child is an act of patriotism. We love our country and the principles that formed it. ‘ All men are created equal.’

  4. How terrible it is that the United States, once considered to be the land of the free and the home of the brave is now cowering in fear that refugees, many of whom have fled death and persecution in their homeland, are now considered to be a threat. Many have come here believing that the United States welcomes immigrants, as it often has in the past, but does no longer. It is a cruel irony that immigrant populations have a lower crime rate than citizens. It is a cruel irony that the United States has the largest prison population of any nation in the world, and refugees are thrown into detention without regard for their rights as human beings to a fair and timely hearing, their cases unheard indefinitely because the wealthiest nation in the world cannot afford to employ enough hearing officers. How terrible it is that the Trump administration is only increasing these injustices.

    1. You could not have said it any better my fiance is in custody right now with border patrol I have nieces that is half Mexican and therw father is a very great person works very hard to support his family if some of the americans would believe as if Spanish people does and work and love and stick bye there family like the illegal immigrants do this world would be a better place Donald trump has messed everything up in our country I just don’t understand he is not even giving the goods ones a chance its not right my fiance is a wonderful person who works very hard stays at home when not working and supports and loves his family so sad what finally trump has done to our country he is taking alotta children’s mothers and fathers away from them he is taking and ripping peoples families apart so sad americans don’t have what you call a freedom of speach we have no say so in what’s going on in the world anymore its all about power and money if you don’t have power or money you have nothing

  5. There seems to be an awful lot of confusion with regard to those here illegally. People who illegally entered this country have no right to be here, are not citizens and do not warrant protection as citizens. They need to be sent back to their homelands. Anyone here illegally is a burden on this country’s tax payers: taking money from schools and the ability to educate children of those here legally. Why is that so difficult to understand?

    1. MarineBob – Once again, you need a reality check Bob. It’s not our job as educators to inquire about immigration status or become a de facto deportation force. That’s the job of ICE. In the meantime, ALL children illegal or not, have a right to an education and I will try to the best of my ability to provide it. What are you going to do? Sit in your classroom until your undocumented kids magically disappear from their seats? Are you ready to shoulder the cost of a deportation army and a useless border wall? Strange how Republicans who are normally fiscal conservatives have suddenly become tone deaf to the astronomical cost of deportation versus the cheaper solution of providing a path to citizenship for these people.

      1. If a person is here illegally, that person, child or not, does not have a right, nor do they rate the privilege of a free, American , public school education. How can any rational person accept that someone here illegally has a right to a free public education? How can it possibly be acceptable that a person who broke the laws of this nation has a right to live here?

        Oh wait, some people think those laws are unjust. I suppose we should all just pick and choose which laws we think are unjust. Apparently that is a liberal interpretation of how a nation of laws ought to be managed: pick what ever law you think is just or unjust and do what ever you want based on your rationalization. Never mind that we have a constitution that established how we create and enforce laws.

        Most analysts who do not make judgment based on feelings, but facts, support the notion that ridding the nation of those here illegally will have a net positive economic effect. The downside is that deporting those here illegally will make liberal thinkers feel bad. Might need more coloring books.

        How can any real American support the idea that someone who came here as a criminal, a violator of our laws, become a citizen? In fact there is a path provided for people from other countries to come here legally. Go back to your homeland, and then follow the laws of this nation and you can become a legal citizen like thousands before. Come here, learn the language of America, renounce your former citizenship, accept American customs and laws. Then you can become a citizen with all the rights and privileges.

        Good plan, thwart the plans and efforts of the president as he enacts legal actions that you don’t like. Maybe that would be a great lesson to teach in a classroom. Ignore the law. Perfect.

        1. MarineBob – An educator’s job should be to teach kids w/o passing judgment on their lives. Although the parents may be here illegally, their kids are the innocent victims. They didn’t ask to be placed in this situation. Why should I deprive them of help as a result of circumstances beyond their control? You can quote all the laws and net positive economic benefits you want. It’s not in my job description to become a deportation flunky for this administration.

        2. Do you prefer we WASTE 25 Billion dollars with walls and another 25 billion dollars on deportation armies and freight cars herding 12,000,000 people into cattle cars like the Germans herded the Jews ? If all tbr lawbreakers in this country were prosecuted, Wall Street would be a ghost town. Do you propose only the powerless lawbreakers be singled out while the rich thieves get to ship their stolen hedge fund TRILLIONS to the Caymans sitting right next to the vaults of Putin and Trump ? 12,000,000 people and their AMERICAN BORN children will take a lot of cattle cars and waste all my tax money. The Califormia. Georgia. and Florida agricultural economies would collapse at harvest time. Get real, not be a Pharisee Jesus hated.

        3. MarineBob: I think everyone reading your comments understands your point of view perfectly. While it may make you feel better, the more venomous you get, the more disapprovals you earn. With that in mind, I encourage to write even more. Please do. It strengthens our resolve. I know how much you’d like to get in the last word.

          1. It always does make me smile and somewhat dismayed to see the sad excuses written here for what it means to be an American. Strengthen your resolve to do what? Break more laws you do not like? I do like to get in the last word because you really do need to hear truth and facts, not bask in your liberal hogwash that makes you feel good.

            I do especially like the disapprovals when a question is posed. Makes one wonder if people understand a question versus a comment.

        4. Hi Bob,

          I would like to clarify some facts regarding a couple of statements you made. Regarding just and unjust laws, I would refer you to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” He addresses the distinction between just and unjust laws, saying “You express a great deal of concern over our willingness to break laws….To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” If you deem it to be a just law, that is up to you and your discretion, but please do not insinuate those of us who believe it is an unjust law just pick it at our whim, especially since as others have noted, even children with an illegal status are still entitled to an education and the law does allow us to practice our beliefs legally.

          Additionally, there are many studies that report that immigrant population is directly related to economic growth, and that their absence would not actually promote economic growth. Additionally, they can hardly be considered a burden on taxpayers as they contribute to our workforces but are not eligible to receive any sort of social security.

          Additionally, you spoke about the path provided for people to become a citizen. The 2019 Secure and Protect Act says that anyone who has entered the country as an asylum seeker (without first having legal status) through anywhere but the legal ports of entry is automatically denied the right to become a citizen. If they went “back to their homeland” they would certainly not be admitted back to become a legal citizen. For those who have not yet entered and are seeking refuge or asylum in the United States, there are very limited criteria for eligibility for entry. Only about 1% who seek entry based on the lottery are admitted. Otherwise, one would have to have incredibly high expertise or knowledge in a field so that an employer would vouch for them, meet incredibly narrow standards proving their persecution at home, or be closely related to an American citizen. Because of these narrow constraints, I would hope that if you’re advocating for the removal of immigrants that you’re also advocating strongly for an admissions process that admits significantly more immigrants through legal means of entry in order to sustain our nation’s economy and long history of being a generous and welcoming space for those who seek refuge here.

          Finally, you say that they must renounce their prior citizenship. That is an unfair and unjust expectation. Though some countries require citizens to only hold citizenship in one nation, the United states is not one of those countries, and our citizens with dual citizenship contribute greatly to relations with other countries and the cultural advancement of many peoples.

          Thank you for your contribution to this discussion thread and for giving others of us the chance to explain our views and the laws and ethics behind them.

        5. Thank you Bob!
          I get so frustrated with those who ignore our laws and constitution. We, as educators, should at least have working knowledge of the Constitution of the United States! I take care of all of my students equally. I get tired of being attacked for not supporting false and emotional rhetoric with no logical argument for evidential support. Isn’t independent thinking and finding evidence what we are teaching our students???

      2. Have you ever had a child from your class deported? Have you ever had an ICE raid at your school? I’m sure the answer is no. I’ve taught at a school with a high percentage of families that are illegal for the last 23 years and never seen any ICE activity. A kid is a kid and will always be treated that way in my class. But let’s get our facts straight, something liberals in my experience don’t like to do. Obama deported far more people than Trump. The law requires deportation, so if you don’t like it complain about Congress not the President. Trump is not anti-immigrant; he is anti-illegal immigrant. They’re not the same thing. ICE under Trump has focused on deporting criminals not families. Obama focused on illegal workers at businesses. Your anti Trump rhetoric is what scares kids; not reality.

      3. Actually Hans, nowhere in MarineBob’s post did he suggest that teachers were supposed to be the ones who were inquiring about immigration status, or become a deportation force.

    2. Everyone can think of a law that is unjust. It may be that you were fined when your parking meter expired. It may be that you were ticketed for driving 10 miles an hour over the speed limit on a stretch of road that you felt was safe. It may be that you feel that some other poorly written law or one that is misinterpreted impacts you personally and you feel the sting of unjustice. Laws are challenged and overturned in courts all the time usually because they are in violation of higher laws, because they violate the will and spirit of the people, because they are inherently and ultimately wrong.

      Dr. Martin Luther King wrote: “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust… One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” I cannot say it any finer than that.

      I am a teacher and I am compelled from within to protect my students. I am driven by a deep and moral conviction that will not be overwritten by the dictates of a soulless, mean-spirited tyrant who leads with spite and division. I will do everything I can to tangle the legs of the stupid giant and bring him down with a thud that will echo for decades to come. And I know I am not alone in this conviction.

      1. I am driven to follow the law. My wife works for the Department of Homeland Security. If I knowingly had a student who was here illegally in my class, I put her job, possibly my job, and probably my marriage in jeopardy.

        People who are here legally have nothing to fear. If you follow any laws in this nation, you have nothing to fear.

        And, just so the facts are out there, the only people being deported are those who have criminal records.

        1. You can’t attract the attention of the masses unless the real truth is embellished. Got to get the liberal thinkers all worked up with fake news and misleading headlines

          Since there seems to be a desire to change topics, Why did the DNC leaders require ID checks before they held a vote? Kind of racist isn’t it?

        2. Not true my fiance has no criminal record and has been deported back to mexico he was a very good person a very hard work and loves his family he done nothing wrong he was going threw the process of getting legal but trump has screwed every thing up he is not giving any of them a chance to prove there good people its not right

          1. If he’s already deported it probably started under Obama.
            He’s giving them a chance by telling them to follow the law and wait their turn. Not everybody has a right to be here, and by coming here illegally he started his stay here as a criminal, so you can’t say he did nothing wrong.

      2. Do what you must, but Lady Liberty has a blindfold on for a reason. Unfortunately, there are consequences for breaking the law. Are some innocent people affected? That is a possibility. Ask the child of parent who murders another human being. The result is that the family is torn apart as the murderer will go to jail. Following our laws may be a novel idea to some, but they are our laws and they must be followed. If something couldn’t be worked out with with our government then a responsible parent would take their child(ren) and go back to their homeland and come in the legal way. The family wouldn’t be broken and the problem is solved.

        1. Why don’t we follow our laws putting the thieves of scams like Trump “University” in jail along with all the too big to fail Wall Street thieves who destroyed MILLIONS of lives ?

        2. They wouldn’t have to break the laws if the president didn’t make a things so hard they just wanna live and work and take care of there family unlike all the American people here in the united states

          1. No, the President didn’t make the laws that say they can’t come here just because they want to, and the President didn’t ruin their countries.

        1. MarineBob-Most of these people have forgotten there are laws in place for a reason. They don’t realize the burden they put on the themselves and the American tax payer. They are a bunch of brainwashed Liberals who have been taught anything and everything should be allowed. These are the same people that would allow a male to go take a shower in the females locker room. Sadly I believe we are in the “Last Days!” I guess it is a blessing knowing God will take us away from ungodly beliefs! Who would ever thought the NEA would promote breaking the laws of our country? It’s pathetic!

    3. It is hard to understand when a single or divorced mother of kids ages 6, 8, 10 BORN IN AMERICA gets a jaywalking ticket and gets deported leaving her honor student children as orphans/wards of the state. What happens to the new trailer their mom bought and paid for working two jobs ? What about the fact the mother is from Bolivia. Where will she be deposited like last week’s newspaper ? We are better people than this. Christians should not mock Jesus by being cruel to families God loves.

        1. MarineBob – Bob, If you’re an educator as you claim then your lack of empathy is shocking. In particular, where innocent school age children are concerned like in the situation which David has described above. Facilitating, instructing, and encouraging all kids to learn should be your focus, but you certainly don’t seem to care much about them unless they can produce the right immigration papers. Maybe you should’ve been be a border patrol agent instead of a teacher.

          1. Every legal citizen is in effect a border patrol agent. If you saw a robbery, an illegal act, or a rape, would you report it to authorities? But since some people don’t seem to like the nation’s immigration laws, rather than get the laws changed, they just ignore them. Now that’s a good lesson to teach. Ignore the law. Even worse, the disrespect for the law is flaunted. Disgusting.

            1. MarineBob – This is pure nonsense. A robbery or rape is a crime capable of being reported on its face but there’s no way to know 100% from looking at someone that they’re here illegally. What’s going to be your criteria as a citizen for contacting authorities? “Hey officer, there’s a person here that doesn’t LOOK like a citizen to me?” I’d like to see how far that cinder block flies.

              Citizens are NOT de-facto border patrol agents. Depending on where you’re located even some local + state police agencies don’t have the power to ask lawfully stopped or detained people about their immigration status. It’s mainly a federal jurisdiction.

              In your zeal not to ignore the law, you’ve proceeded to ignore facts and common sense.

          2. You are right, I have no empathy for illegal aliens. Unless one is an illegal alien it would be impossible for that person to have empathy. Perhaps sympathy, but not empathy.

            My concerns are lawful actions. If I had information, not looks, but information that a person was here illegally, I would report that to the Immigration service. Not exactly guessing who is illegal.

            I care about those here illegally only to the extent that they are living off my taxes and are people who fled their own country and have not pledged allegiance to this country. That is a problem. If you are here living off this nation’s freedoms that person needs to be here in a legal status with complete and total dedication to the United States, not half baked appreciation for our handouts.

            1. MarineBob – The parents may be lawbreakers but it’s the children, OUR students and YOUR students, who are the innocent victims here. As educators, the kids are really our sole concern. They are the focus of our mission. That’s what weighs heavily on the minds of many educators’ in choosing to protect them. We’re not interfering with ICE in the performance of their duties, but it’s not our job to do their job.

  6. When I went to Russia, Egypt, Vietnam,Cambodia and China I had secure a visa and pay for entrance. Why are we doing anything else here in our land? This is the question I would ask of a student that was afraid of deportation.

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