This guide was created by a group of educators and counselors working in New York City Public Schools, as part of an Inquiry to Action Group (ItAG) organized by the New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE). We work in transfer schools, homeless shelters, international high schools, mainstream high schools and elementary schools. Like many fellow New Yorkers, and some of us, a lot of our students are immigrants, or children or relatives of immigrants. Some of whom are undocumented.
Seven years later, we are proud to have joined the New York State Youth Leadership Council as a team of educators working to support and amplify the voices of undocumented youth.
Why this matters: Critical Moments in the K-12 setting
There are moments that as educators or teachers, we are often a part of creating. They might be the moment when a student first learns of their undocumented status, or is put into an uncomfortable or unsafe situation. Consider these situations as you think about ways to make your classroom and your school safer for undocumented youth:
- Your school is taking a field trip to a site that requires state ID;
- Your school is taking a trip out of state and will travel by train, bus or plane. (This could put undocumented youth in dangerous situations if they are traveling without identification);
- Your students are participating in a public protest; police actions, even at non-violent and permitted actions, your students can be at risk;
- Talking about college for the first time. In asking why a student hasn’t applied or sought out information, you might find that they haven’t had a space to discuss their options;
- Assignments that require students to talk about personal history, home, or family;
- Encouraging students to apply to jobs online or at a job fair. (This can be great practice for a young person but might require a private conversation about what their employment options are);
- Extracurricular activities that take students away from their often invisible and almost always unpaid responsibilities at home;
- Taking students to a space where there is a large police presence and the potential to be stopped (even subway stops!).
The way educators handle these situations has an impact that cannot be measured on immigrant and undocumented youth. Considering all of the other barriers and harm thrown at undocumented people in the rest of society, immigrant students deserve schools that are committed to learning how to be the best places possible to foster their emotional, intellectual, and political growth.