I think that no matter what direction people lean politically, most could agree that right now is a crappy time to be an immigrant. Legal or illegal isn't the point, nor is the faith they live by. If you are an immigrant, and you didn't immigrate from say, Ireland, it's a tough time to be in America. There's so much negative press, public suspicion, and just overall ugliness towards these people. It's heartbreaking. There are bad people in every part of every society, but I truly believe that most of the people who have come here have done so because they don't want to starve, or be killed, or be brutalized. The perspective that I have is purely derived from my own experience.
I work in one of the most diverse school districts in the country, a fact I'm proud of. I have worked with immigrant families frequently at my elementary schools. The majority of my job is meeting with families to express that there may be an issue with their child and their education. Then I meet with them again to tell them what the issue is. I don't do this on my own, I have amazing teams at both of my schools and we are all in this together, but the burden of telling the parents what the issue is falls on me. This is a difficult thing to do with all parents, but over the last few years, I've thought it would be harder with immigrant families. I assumed they would be distrustful of our rules, our system, and our way of educating our young people. What I discovered was the exact opposite.
The countries some of these families have come from are Mexico, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Vietnam, Laos, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Let me tell you the kinds of experiences I've had with these people.
- We met with a father from a Middle Eastern country who is commuting almost two hours away to provide for his wife and children who speak almost no English at all. He apologized to US for not being more available to help his children at home since he is the only one who speaks English. He said he is working very hard to find a job closer to home so he can see more of his children and help them learn. He promised us all he would try harder and thanked us for taking the time to be invested in his child.
- We met with another family from the Middle East whose child suffered complications during birth that resulted in them having limited cognitive ability. They explained (through an interpreter) that in their country, not only were they not able to get their child the help they needed shortly after they was born, but the education available to this child mainly consisted of sitting in a room. They explained to us that they assumed the child wouldn't be able to learn anything so they didn't try to teach them. When I had to tell this family how low their child was, it killed me. It was hard for them as well and the mother cried. While she was crying, she thanked us for helping. This little one is now picking up English like you wouldn't believe, and IS learning, even though it's at a slower pace.
- We assessed and qualified another youngster whose family was from Central America. We didn't know that the dad was here illegally until we were contacted by an immigration attorney who asked myself and a special education teacher to testify on behalf of the father. We both agreed to do so, planning on saying that the father's absence would have put undue stress on the child, making it even more difficult to learn. The day we were to testify, the attorney called to tell us that we no longer needed to, and that they had won their case and he could stay. This occurred about 6 weeks before the election.
- A teacher I work with had been trying to convince a parent from a country in Africa to allow us to screen her son for a particular disorder. She had been resistant, but after meeting with us she agreed. She couldn't have been lovelier about it either, and afterwards I learned she brought our principal food from her country she had prepared for him.
- Parents from another Middle Eastern country came in to discuss their child, who is suffering from severe hearing loss. They've only recently arrived here, and they shared that they had attempted to take their child to a different country for treatment, but with the economy the way it was in their country, they couldn't afford the treatment that was necessary. Could we possibly help them figure that out now that they're here?
- A family from Africa came in to discuss their child who we suspected could have Autism. This usually isn't an easy thing for families to consider, and even harder to accept. When we told them the child qualified, they said they were relieved. They said that they were glad there was an answer and that we didn't just punish their kid for their behaviors like they did at the last school. The mother told our principal that she knew the moment they arrived at our school, that he truly cared about their child.
- After telling one father from South East Asia that his child had a pretty pronounced learning disability, he said "I'm just so glad there's help like this for him. Back in my country if you had a hard time learning, they just hit you with a stick!"
Sooooo, yeah. What a bunch of freeloading, lazy leeches who are just sitting around on our dime, plotting our demise! Not all of my experiences have been this positive, but the vast majority of them have been, and they all have one big thing in common. They thank us. We tell them that there is something wrong with their babies, and they are grateful.
Lately when I encounter these families, I want to apologize. I want to tell them to not watch the news, that we don't hate them, that we don't look at the moms wearing hijabs and think negative thoughts. When I see these ladies on my campuses, I look around on guard, but on their BEHALF, not because of them. I don't want anyone to say anything negative, to look at them wrong, to make them feel unwelcome. But they don't need me, they are doing just fine, they are happy to be here and they are thankful for our education system, even though their kiddos are struggling. It is absolutely beyond humbling. I thank GOD that they all came here when they did, because I have no doubt whatsoever that there are thousands of families exactly like theirs who can't come here now.
Don't get near these families. Support them or leave them alone and be quiet. I don't care where they're from, what god they believe in, or what their customs are. I care that I'm a mom, and I'm talking to another mom. At the end of the day, parenting is the same everywhere. We want our children happy and healthy and probably 80% of our lives is spent worrying about them or thinking that we've screwed them up somehow. While I worry about my children and their relationships, decisions, and grades, they have some different concerns. These moms are just trying to get their babies away from being sold into slavery, or being raped, or gassed, or bombed. We have no idea what this is like. NONE.
To our current leader...I say this. They are not snakes. They are NOT snakes. THEY ARE NOT SNAKES!! They're just human beings...are you one?