With each daily headline, the undocumented and the children of the undocumented here at Indian Trail High School become increasingly distracted and worried at school.
Although they know they should be paying attention in class, they think about their family and whether members will be home when they return from school. One day they could all be together and the next, how easily it would be for a parent to be gone.
Just recently, Juan Manuel Montes became the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status to be deported under the Trump Administration, according to USA Today. Within three hours of his arrest, Montes was deported back to Mexico, according to NPR News.
DACA is a program that provides foreign-born children who were brought to the United States before the age of 16 with a two-year work permit, social security number, and peace of mind from deportation, as long as they follow specific requirements. Yet today, according to USA Today, at least 10 DACA are in federal custody.
Indian Trail has such children, often referred to as DREAMers named for a similar proposal — students who came to America as a small child, studied in its schools, many with hopes of attending college someday. To them, America is home, they say, in interviews with The Pulse. They remember no other home.
On April 24, the Kenosha News addressed how both Gateway Technical College and the University of Wisconsin- Parkside are dealing with federal immigration policy. Gateway officials are working with local authorities to ensure the college meets its legal obligations, the report stated, but it also is assisting students through Immigrant Defense Project posters and other resources, encouraging them to “Know Your Rights with ICE.” UW-Parkside is not displaying the posters, but responding to students on a one-on-one basis with resources. As of right now, the Kenosha Unified School District has not formed a formal stand on the issue, but some students have expressed concerns about their futures.
One IT senior explained how calls nationally for more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and a crackdown on illegal immigrants is impacting her life.
“My parents tell me how sometimes they don’t want to go out because they’re scared that the police might stop them or because they see (my mom) and they’re like, ‘oh, look she’s Mexican, let’s stop her,” said an Indian Trail senior, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But she does feel safe here at school. She is an American citizen, although she fears her parents will be deported, especially when she hears news reports of ICE being nearby.
A male Indian Trail freshman faces different circumstances because he has a visa. He has been here since age 2. Though he and his family have legal status, he is always going to have the fear they will get caught up in an immigration raid and be detained and possibly deported if they are not carrying a form of identification card or their visas. He recalls a time period when he was in elementary and scared, but stated that he does feel safe here at school.
Indian Trail High School and Academy’s principal offered several suggestions to those students who are uncertain or worried and going through a difficult time.
“I know a lot of those news reports are pretty distressing for kids and that is a little bit frightening because there are a lot of unknowns out there, but I think the key is that we do have Juan Torres, who works with the district and he’s our coordinator of diversity and he’s working with other district officials to make sure we continue to be a safe environment for kids,” said Principal Maria Kotz.
“I would suggest to them that there’re plenty of people in this building to talk to, classroom teachers obviously, but counselors and other support people, who can help provide them with some access and resources to help them feel a little bit more safe,” said Kotz.
She also addressed what would happen ICE came to Indian Trail.
“If anything like that were to happen we would contact parents first, we would have to contact district officials as well, but we would try to prevent any kind of commotion. Our goal is to provide a safe environment for kids and to not escalate any crisis,” said Kotz.
Other students talked about immigration and how President Trump is dealing with it.
“Yeah some may do it (immigrate) illegally, but it’s out of desperation. The process of obtaining a visa is very long and sometimes may take years. Some individuals can’t qualify for it so out of desperation that’s why they do it,” said an Indian Trail freshman who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic.
“People do not choose to suffer for up to a month. I personally do not support most of President Trump’s choices. As an immigrant myself, I do understand some of his concerns, but he does not have to over exaggerate. There are more important things that he should be focusing on rather than trying to deport every single hispanic or minority. Yes, there are a lot of immigrants in the country, but why doesn’t he use it to his advantage,” said the student.
“What I feel about immigration is I don’t think it’s fair for those being in America, where you’re in the place of a lot of opportunities and there are people being super racist about undocumented people, I don’t like it,” said an Indian Trail senior.
“I think it’s bad because they shouldn’t be sending them back right away or punishing them that bad. I feel like they should at least give them a chance to prove themselves worthy of being in the United States because they’re hard workers,” said an Indian Trail sophomore.
Many of the students addressed the massive deportations that have been happening all over the country.
“I think it’s crazy that there’s a lot of people being deported back. It’s crazy how they’re just getting sent back when they came here to change their life,” said an Indian Trail senior.
“It impacted my family a lot because it’s sad to see a lot of people just get thrown out of the country,” said another Indian Trail junior.
Indian Trail provides support to its students, many students said. Students seem to all acknowledge how much the school tries to provide a safe environment for everyone.
“Yeah, I feel safe at school, I feel like school is one of the safest place to be. I think our school is a very safe school, it’s like no racism in school anyways so it doesn’t bother me,” said a male Indian Trail senior.
“Yes I do, but I know in other schools some people might not feel safe,” said an Indian Trail junior.
Kotz agreed that Indian Trail is a safe zone.
“I think we try very hard to provide a safe place for all of our students,” Kotz said.