It’s hard to believe, but the 2016-2017 school year for New York Public Schools has only just now come to an end. I am fortunate enough to work at an excellent school which features a tremendously mixed student population. In any given classroom, there will be several students from China, Russia, Ukraine, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Caribbean Islands as well as a myriad of other countries, including the United States.
Last year at this time, my students were holding mock campaigns for the various presidential candidates. One of the popular lines was: “If Trump wins, we will all be deported!” Of course, everyone laughed. This year, there is no such joking around. If anyone is here illegally, that information is held close to that student’s chest.
So I’ve been thinking about how the word “immigrant” used to be a rather hallowed part of our American culture; the valiant newcomer, who, against all odds, somehow managed to rise above the plethora of obstacles placed in his/her path, thus defining the American Dream. Now, that same word is tethered to negative connotations, and students only reluctantly claim that label as their own.
As ICE continues its raids, breaking up untold numbers of families, I worry about the children who stopped going to school; the ones that have been plunged into devastating poverty, fear and insecurity, not to mention sadness at the loss of a parent. These are the children who would formerly have been hailed at their school graduations; who would have seamlessly entered the competitive work force with competent speaking and writing skills. Instead, they will be hidden, falling behind in every metric as they grow older, forming an underclass of undereducated individuals consigned perhaps to a lifetime of poor skills and menial labor.
When France had some terrorist attacks a few years ago from its own residents, one of the reasons offered for such a phenomenon was the lack of integration of its ethnically non French citizens. While I do not espouse this type of prediction for our own country, I do see a group of people who could be depressed socially, economically and emotionally if our present policies continue. Let’s hope that 2018 will bring a much needed change to these current detrimental and inhumane policies.