Back to School but Nothing’s Normal. Schools Mobilize to Help Children of Immigrants After Traumatic Summer

By Conor Williams and Rosario Quiroz Villarreal


It was a busy, if often frustrating, summer for the Trump administration’s many efforts to destabilize U.S. immigration policies. Federal judges ruled in August that, under a long-standing legal agreement, the administration was required to provide detained children at the border with “edible food, clean water, soap and toothpaste.” So the administration announced that it would write new regulations to supersede that agreement.

This came on the heels of the culmination of the administration’s multiyear push to redefine the country’s “public charge” rule, aiming to make it harder for hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants to obtain long-term legal residency in the United States. That effort also drew a raft of lawsuits.

For immigrant families and their communities, these recent efforts cap a terrifying few months. A series of dramatic ICE raids heightened immigrant communities’ fears across the country. And the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, was a horrific, dramatic escalation of a wave of violence targeting immigrants in recent years. Against this backdrop, rumors — that the administration might (illegally) start targeting undocumented children in public schools as a way of pressuring their families, for instance — come to resemble facts. Immigrants in the United States today often find the rule of law to be unreliable — and their place in the country to be insecure.

“We’re … at this culminating tipping point of the trauma and horror that this administration’s been inflicting upon kids and families on almost a weekly basis now,” said Wendy Cervantes, director of immigration and immigrant families at the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C. “The cumulative effect has become particularly cumulative over the past summer. [It] feels like there’s something different about where we are right now.”


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