On August 7, 2019, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed a coordinated series of immigration enforcement raids in seven food processing plants across the state of Mississippi. The result was one the largest immigration sweeps of its kind with a record-setting 680 arrests that separated families, left many children without parents or caretakers, and stoked fears in entire communities. The timing of these unprovoked raids coincided with the first day of school, causing fear and anxiety among children and forcing school officials to figure out how to deal with the aftermath of these targeted assaults on local communities.
As an organization dedicated to quality leadership and advocacy for schools, we publicly condemn these raids. No child should ever be forcibly separated from her/his/their family in this fashion. No child should live with the fear that their parent could be taken away from them at any time. No child should stress over whether their parents or guardians will be home at the end of the school day. The psychological and emotional trauma of these raids– compounded by massive family separations on the US/Mexico border, the deadly shootings in El Paso (TX) and Dayton (OH), and a political climate that is vehemently anti-immigrant and anti-Latinx— is considerable and destructive to children and entire communities. As a result, schools bear the unique burden of having to respond to these socially-produced causalities in real time. Mississippi school administrators are not alone in their efforts to address the devastation caused by ICE raids. These crises are impacting students across the country, and schools are on the front lines of tackling these individual and collective tragedies and responding to them in ways that are responsive to student and community needs.
As members of the UCEA Executive Committee, we, like many of you, are devastated by what is happening in our nation, our schools, and are called to action. As a first step, UCEA will be hosting a Twitterchat on supporting and preparing leaders after/for traumatic events such as this. We encourage you to join on Monday August 12, 2019 from 12-2pm EST with the hashtag #UCEAction. We also encourage local action and involvement from our member institutions specifically and the educational community writ large. Reach out to local school districts and ensure they have a clear plan in place for dealing with ICE raids and local enforcement actions. As fears become realities in immigrant communities, it is imperative that we all step up, do our part, and take a stand in order to better serve students during times of trauma and insecurity.