The feature story “This Is Not a Drill” offers multiple suggestions for educators who want to resist enhanced ICE enforcement and support undocumented or mixed-status families. Teachers have a unique window into the lives of students and, collectively, have been a powerful force of resistance in many vulnerable parts of the country. This toolkit offers a suggestion for how teachers can advocate for family members who have been detained as well as other useful resources that can help prepare and inform the entire school community.
Write a letter of support.
Teachers who work in vulnerable areas can be particularly helpful in the event that a parent or guardian is detained by writing a letter of support. Such letters should emphasize the positive contributions of the family and the negative effect of family separation on the child in your class. Teachers who wish to draft such letters should make every effort to get them into the hands of the family member’s attorney or to an advocate who will best know how to use the letters as evidence during the parent’s bond or immigration hearing. Here’s a sample you can copy and customize:
To Whom It May Concern:
I have had the pleasure of having [name of student] in my class for [weeks/months/years]. [Student’s name] was a standout individual and a hard worker. [Student’s pronoun] is extremely well mannered, kind, and respectful. [Student’s pronoun] is a student who gets [student’s possessive pronoun] work done and is appreciative of the school system. It breaks my heart to see [student’s pronoun] hurting and sad, due to something happening at home. I cannot imagine what [student’s pronoun] is going through, and obviously it has affected [student’s pronoun] personality some at school. It would be hard to focus when your mind is worried about whether you are going to get to see your [family member] again. I would hate for this to negatively affect [student’s pronoun] education and innocent personality.
Having worked with children for over [years], I can tell how most children are raised. Being around [name of student] I could tell [student’s pronoun] has great, involved parents. [Student’s pronoun] was taught to respect teachers and peers and not to take [student’s pronoun] education for granted. [Student’s pronoun] has always been a joy to be around. I have no doubt in my mind that [student’s pronoun] will be a contributing member of our workforce in the future.
In conclusion, [student’s name] is being affected in all aspects of life due to [name of family member] being detained by immigration. I love this kid and would hate for this tragedy to change who [student’s pronoun] is. It breaks my heart to see fear in [student’s pronoun] eyes. I hope in the future this family unit is reunited and is whole again.
Know and share these resources.
These resources can inform you as you embark on becoming an advocate for undocumented students and families, and they will help you support members of your community whose lives are affected by enhanced immigration enforcement.
Supporting Students From Immigrant Families
A comprehensive package of resources addressing topics from school climate to recommendations for how families can protect themselves during ICE raids.
Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff
Originally published by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its partners, this guide offers an overview of how adults who work in schools—as individuals and as members of a community—can advocate for and protect undocumented students and families and unaccompanied minors.
Grassroots Campaigns Powered by United We Dream
Put your energy behind one of these campaigns, or share them with students who want to take action in support of undocumented immigrants.
Help For Immigrant Families: Guidance for Schools
These suggestions from the Immigration Legal Resource Center break down specific steps schools and educators can take to help undocumented or mixed-status families navigate the risks of enhanced immigration enforcement.
Know Your Rights and What Immigrant Families Should Do Now
More documents from the Immigration Legal Resource Center focused on informing families of what they should do when approached by an ICE agent.
Family Preparedness Plan
Step-by-step plans and templates for families who may face deportation or family separation.
Take care of yourself.
Activism takes energy—and it can take a toll on your mental and physical health. You may bear witness to family crises that don’t resolve positively and result in your students suffering. You may observe the inner workings of a system that you fundamentally disagree with and feel deeply frustrated. All these emotions can feel overwhelming and begin to affect other areas of your life.
Take time to assess how you are feeling throughout the day and how you’re reacting to stress; ask those closest to you to tell you how they think you are doing. If you notice your health has declined, consider taking a break, engaging in some mindfulness exercises or talking to a therapist. You can’t provide help to students and families if you are falling apart yourself.