Dear Students of Bret Harte Middle School:
This morning, I saw a story about one of your teachers, who—the day after Trump was elected—was recorded terrorizing Hispanic students in your school.
The teacher said that if you were born here and your parents were illegal, they would have to go and leave you behind. The teacher said that you would all be in foster care.
“How are they going to find me?” one of you asked.
“I got your phone numbers, your address, your mama’s address, your daddy’s address. It’s all in the system…and when they come and there’s an illegal, they gotta go.”
In my mind’s eye, I saw your face when this teacher said these horrible, threatening things—and felt in my heart, I felt what you were feeling.
I want you to know that this teacher was wrong. Wrong in so many ways.
When I was in school, it was my teachers who saved me—they saved me from being scared, from not knowing where I was going, and from ignorance. They were my role models for clear thinking, problem solving, and an inclusive world in which all people were accepted and loved.
I want to tell you what my teachers—good teachers—would say to you about the deportation of your family were they here today.
1) There has been a lot of talk about a mass deportation of “illegal” immigrants in the press. I’m sure you and many of your parents are scared by that talk. First of all, that talk has not become law and it will take a long time for it to become law—if it ever does.
2) It’s okay to feel scared and nervous—and if you do, you can come to me and talk to me about it. I’m here to listen to you and I will do whatever I can to help you.
3) I myself am proud to have you as a student in my class and a citizen of this country. I appreciate that you bring a different perspective and that you expand my world.
4) I admire your ability to express yourself in two languages. Being able to move fluently from one language to another exercises your brain and expands your ability to think and problem solve in ways that I myself never learned.
5) There are 56 million people of Hispanic origin living in the United States, and this number grows every single day. By the time you grow up, you will see more and more Hispanic people in places of power and in governmental and leadership roles. Hispanics cannot be ignored. You have a bright future. I am excited to see you claim it.
Finally, I am sorry about what your teacher said and that it even happened. I am sorry that you are going through such times.
Remember that there are more people in the United States who want your parents to stay here, than there are people who want them to go.
There are also other teachers in your school—good teachers like the ones I had—who appreciate you, care about you and are committed to you growing up to be all you can be, right here in the United States of America, with your parents by your side.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Photo: Video Still
Editor: Travis May