Blog: Latino Ed Beat

L.A. Leaders Vow to Protect Undocumented Immigrants, But Students Still on Edge

In the two weeks since Republican Donald Trump won the presidency on a platform touting stricter immigration laws and mass deportations, Los Angeles leaders have taken steps to assure the immigrants within their borders that the city supports them. 

Last Thursday, city officials vowed to push back against deportation efforts and will seek an immigrant advocate to pursue policies to prevent the estimated 1 million undocumented immigrants in the area from being deported. In a similar vein, the school board of the Latino-majority Los Angeles Unified School District has announced that if the Trump administration were to request student data, it would resist. (Note: LAUSD does not request or record students’ immigration statuses.)

Still, teachers report ongoing anxiety among students, especially Latino children who are immigrants themselves or have family members who are in the country illegally. 

Children are arriving at school “shrouded in anxiety,” teachers told the Los Angeles Times. Middle school teacher Martha Infante, who described the day after the election as the most difficult of her career, said students and teachers alike have been acting like zombies, “numb from shock.” 

At the high school level, hundreds of students have participated in walkouts and protests, the Times reports. Some don’t know if they will apply to college, because they’re unsure of whether they’ll be staying in the country. Others are wary of applying for temporary legal status to live and work in the U.S. under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), lest they out themselves to the new administration — a concern shared by many of the more than 700,000 young immigrants across the country currently protected under DACA, who worry the personal information they shared with the government to qualify may now be used against them. 

The widespread fear in the district has spurred action among educators and their leaders. The school board plans to send a letter from the nation’s second-largest school district to the president-elect with the signatures of board members, Superintendent Michelle King, and anyone else in the community who wants to add their names, according to the LA School Report

King posted a message to the district’s website last week, reminding students that they’re not alone and that “the best place to discuss concerns is in school with caring teachers and staff.” She added, “Our schools are utilizing assemblies, classroom dialogues, speaking activities and our restorative justice programs to provide a secure forum for our students.”

The LAUSD website also features “post-election resources,” which include a detailed look at the risks of applying for DACA, information on immigrants’ rights, and recommendations for how to talk to children about the polarizing political climate. 

The local teachers’ union, UTLA, has also posted resources on its website and plans to start reaching out to families via the Spanish-language media in December to address their fears and concerns.