FAQ

Flooded with questions after Trump win, Denver Public Schools produces immigration fact sheet

PHOTO: Melanie Asmar
A Denver student holds a sign at a walkout to protest Trump.

Denver Public Schools has produced a fact sheet in four languages answering immigration questions posed by anxious students and families in the wake of last week’s election of Donald Trump.

“We tremendously value the dignity and worth of every student we serve, every family we serve and every educator who works with us,” Superintendent Tom Boasberg said at a school board work session Monday night. He added that “a number of them are worried, fearful — either for their personal future or the future of members of their families.”

Trump has said he would end an Obama-initiated program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that provides protections to young undocumented immigrants. He has also vowed to build a wall along the Mexico-United States border — after he won, he said a fence will do in spots — and increase the number of federal agents who enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

More than three-quarters of DPS’s 91,500 students are children of color. About 56 percent of students last year were Latino and 14 percent were black. Thirty-seven percent were English language learners. The top three languages other than English spoken by DPS students were Spanish, Arabic and Vietnamese, according to district statistics.

DPS has made the fact sheet — presented in question-and-answer format — available in those languages, plus English. It was distributed to school leaders Tuesday in the hopes they’d share it with families, officials said.

The fact sheet (read it below) assures families that students have a right to a public education regardless of their immigration status — and that a president can’t take that away. It also says the district does not share information about students’ status with federal authorities.

The sheet also includes links to resources including a database of immigration lawyers and it urges families to stay away from scam artists who are not licensed attorneys.

“We’re thinking of, ‘How we can support our students, how we can be extraordinarily clear in how much we care for them and value them, and how we can be a center of learning so that the elections our kids experience moving forward will be ones where we do a better job celebrating what we have in common and focusing on genuine differences?’” Boasberg said Monday.

At least one school, George Washington High, is hosting an immigration forum this week to “provide post-election information and offer strategies to support and protect families,” according to the school’s website. Scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m., the forum is a joint venture between the school and local organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

Officials with several other metro school districts, including Aurora and Jefferson County, said school staff is speaking with students about their concerns on an individual basis. The superintendent of Westminster Public Schools, which serves a large Latino population, plans to address the election and its aftermath in a newsletter Wednesday, a district spokesman said.

Denver students have protested Trump’s election in a series of school walkouts last week and this week. While the district has encouraged students to stay on campus, officials have also said that if kids choose to leave, they support them.

Staff writer Yesenia Robles contributed to this report.

Immigration

Tennessee education group campaigns against new threats to DACA and undocumented immigrants

PHOTO: Andrés Martinez/Conexión Américas
Tennessee students meet with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker in Chattanooga on Feb. 27 to urge support for federal protections to undocumented immigrant students under DACA.

Responding to new threats to undocumented immigrants under the Trump administration, a Tennessee advocacy group is mobilizing educators and civil rights leaders to urge continued federal protections for those who came to the U.S. as children.

The Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition has asked its more than 900 supporters to sign a letter urging U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to use their influence toward continuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Known as DACA, the program protects about 8,000 people in Tennessee, many of them students.

“Eliminating DACA will not fix our broken immigration system, instead it will leave over 800,000 young adults across the country without a viable opportunity to contribute,” the letter said.

The call is in response to threatened legal action by a coalition of 10 attorneys general, including Tennessee’s Herbert Slatery, urging U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to phase out DACA by Sept. 5. That coalition argues that President Barack Obama’s 2012 DACA order was unconstitutional because it bypassed Congress through an executive action.

President Donald Trump, who had campaigned to end temporary protections for young undocumented immigrants, has since backed off of that pledge. However, state lawsuits against DACA could trigger yet another reversal from the administration, according to Gini Pupo-Walker, director of education policy and programs for Conexión Américas.

Conexión Américas is seeking to counter that effort with a new campaign under the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, which organized in 2016 to advocate for students of color.

PHOTO: Conexión Américas
A postcard urges U.S. Sen. Bob Corker to support DACA protections.

Since Trump became president, Conexión Américas has organized letter-writing drives to raise support for DACA and awareness of threats to the program. In February, a contingent of students brought 800 postcards to Corker in Chattanooga. In March, students visited Alexander in Washington, D.C. 

“I think they have a decent understanding of the stakes and what DACA means,” said Pupo-Walker of Tennessee’s two Republican senators. “Our goal is to elevate the urgency of the issue. We feel like time isn’t on our side here, and there is a possibility it could be reversed and students and adults would be very much in limbo.”

The coalition is urging Tennessee’s senators to show national leadership in the DACA debate.

“This issue has long-term impacts on Tennessee. It’s good to have students out of the shadows working, contributing and paying taxes,” Pupo-Walker said. “[DACA] provides hope for current high school students to stay in school and graduate because they can go on to do more. It’s important for Tennessee’s prosperity to have these kids able to work and participate fully.”

getting active

What three New York City teens say about politics today — and getting their peers to vote

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Nuzhat Wahid contributes to a brainstorming session during a recent YVote meeting.

Plenty of adults are frustrated with politics these days, when turning on the television or reading the latest news alert brings a fresh jolt of anxiety. A new organization wants to help teens channel that angst into action.

Founded by educators, organizers and members of the media, YVote plans to work backwards from issues that teens are passionate about to answer the question: “Why vote?” The aim is to recruit students who will be “18 in ’18” — in other words, old enough to vote in the next election cycle — to head to the polls and become the next generation of community activists.

“People in my generation and those older than us haven’t done a great job in being civil in the way they talk to each other,” Liz Gray, a teacher at NYC iSchool and a facilitator for YVote, told students at the organization’s inaugural meeting this month. “So we’re trying to set a new set of norms with all of you.”

About 50 teens from every borough and more than 20 different schools make up the first YVote class. They are an intentionally diverse group of various political stripes, economic backgrounds and countries of origin. Using the Freedom Summer of 1964 and other case studies, students will work throughout the year to design and test their own campaigns. The goal: to encourage civic engagement while learning to listen to others — even when they disagree.

Chalkbeat spoke with three teens who have joined the effort. Here’s what they think about politics and how to get their peers to the voting booth. These interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Millennium Shrestha, 17, Forest Hills High School, Queens

Millennium Shrestha

I’m passionate about: computer sciences. I’d like to connect computers to mankind. I want to bring a change, a computer revolution.

Teens can teach adults about: the clichés that they hold in their thoughts and ideas. I think if you do things exactly as people in the past have done, it’s useless because you know what the outcome is going to be. But if you find new thoughts or ideas to change this world, it works really well. You have to do something weird to get attention.

One way to get teens committed to voting is: not just giving them motivational speeches about what voting is about. There should be a day just focused on getting youth involved in voting. I think it’s easier to get them to vote if you can grab their attention.

I would describe the current political climate as: not that bad. If political systems are monotonous, you’ll never get to the top of the world. It should change periodically. Now we have Mr. Trump, and I actually support Trump for president because now we’ll see different views and ideas. It might be good, it might be bad, but there’s going to be a change.

Faith Vieira, 15, Brooklyn College Academy

Faith Vieira, a rising senior at Brooklyn College Academy, is a member of YVote.
Faith Vieira

I’m passionate about: advocating for youths to be better versions of themselves and spreading influence to affect others — to have a ripple effect.

I think teens can teach adults about: what it was like to be a teen, and how the issues that they face are related to the issues we face. We’re people also, and our voice is important to their success and their social issues, too.

One way to get teens committed to vote is: to show there is an actual effect if they don’t vote, or if they do. To basically show that their voice is getting heard and their choice matters.

I would describe the current political climate as: stressful. The voice that we thought we put out isn’t really being heard. So it’s stressful — but it’s needed because it shows the division that we have in the country. But there’s going to be progress because now people are going to be forced to come together.

Nuzhat Wahid, 16, Academy of American Studies, Queens

Nuzhat Wahid

I’m passionate about: political activism. I’m passionate about world issues and conflict resolution. I like to know more and I like to try to be as open-minded as possible.

I think teens can teach adults about: respect. Recently we’ve seen in the political atmosphere that a lot of people can’t seem to compromise with others. They can’t seem to respect what their peers are saying. They can’t seem to come to an understanding or a resolution. So I think that, given that we are seeing this, we understand what not to do. And when we are adults, we may be able to talk about compromise.

One way to get teens committed to voting is: to educate them more on the voting process. To spread awareness of the fact that there are more elections than just the main, presidential elections. That there are local elections where you can elect your local representatives, and that can affect change.

I would describe the current political climate as: tense. Unworkable. Ineffective.