Immigration in the Classroom

By Sarah Nash

Deportation, ICE Raids, and threats of deporation are on the rise leaving classrooms all over the United States full of fearful immigrant students and heartbroken teachers as they face the unknown. Bullying has increased causing undocumented and documented immigrants alike to not feel safe and welcome in their schools. Fear of deportation or family separation is on the forefront of millions of people’s minds.

Imagine you’re Pablo*, a thirteen year old boy living in Washington State. You and your family have just moved from Guatemala. You suffer from PTSD because during the journey through the desert to the Texas-Mexican Border you and your family were shot at, beaten, apprehended by Border Patrol, lived for a month in a detention center, and then released to family sponsors in Washington. You are trying to build a better life in the United States, but due the current Presidental Administration, you and your family live with a daily fear that you will be deported while waiting for the Immigration court date.

Over the past three years I have had the opportunity to help welcome and walk alongside Latino immigrant teenagers like Pablo at a Middle School in Washington State. All the stories that I have heard of why families decided to migrate to the United States have a common thread — desperation. They were fleeing from gang violence in their villages, escaping extreme poverty, and or victims of domestic violence.

Students like Pablo move into our neighborhoods and arrive at schools across the United States with traumatic life experiences. They are diligent towards their education by coming to school, doing their homework, learning English, and filling in their learning gaps. Their hardwork is displayed in their amazing social and academic growths. They are the most resilent people I know.

Jesus invites us to walk with the poor, the oppressed, to love our neighbor, and heal the hurting. Jesus said, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). Immigrants around the United States are faced with injustices, low paying jobs, racism, and fear. They are in need of neighbors like you and me who live out the resurrected hope and offer hospitality.

Recently, I was reminded by a mural that is painted on the Border wall in Tijuana, Mexico that quotes Frederick Buechner: “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.” As I read it, I was filled with hope for those who have made the journey to the United States and for those who have been deported will soon all find hope. The stories I have heard on the border are hopeful because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They believe that deporation and family separation will not be the last thing. They live that said hope and trust they will be reunited soon. The Latino immigrant community that I work with, have come to start a new life. Their circumstances in their home country were devastating which led them to have no other option, but to migrate to Washington State. Even though they have experienced the worst thing, I have faith that it isn’t the last thing.

It is my calling as a Christian, to keep fighting for Immigrant Rights. I stand everyday with my students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. My hope is that there will be a day when we say the words “indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all” and my students will feel undivided, freedom not fear, and justice not injustice.

As followers of Jesus, may we be filled with new life from the resurrection of Jesus to bring hope, love, and grace to people like Pablo who we meet along the journey.

*Pablo is an alias that the author created for privacy of her student.

Sarah Nash is a E.L.L. Para-professional Educator in Washington State.

The views expressed are those of the author or authors alone, and not those of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.