Letter to the Editor

Treatment of immigrants already bad

Monday, November 28, 2016

There’s been lots of chatter on social media and among pundits, warning that the treatment of immigrant kids and English language learners is going to “get worse” under a Donald Trump presidency.

Some people on Twitter are even monitoring incidents in which Latino students in particular have been targeted.

But I wonder: When were these students not targeted? When did immigrant students and their families ever have it easy?

People are often surprised to hear that many of these children, with brown skin and “foreign-sounding” names, are U.S. citizens by birth. Yet 95 percent of Latino students in U.S. public schools are American citizens, according the latest survey by the National Council of La Raza.

Immigration is no longer the primary factor driving Latino population growth. In fact, since 2009, the number of Mexican immigrants leaving the U.S., voluntarily and involuntarily, has exceeded the number of new arrivals.

I’ve been reporting on education for 27 years and covered lots of stories about this population, especially this year as we’ve set out to report on how the nation can educate the nearly 5 million students who are learning English. And I can’t imagine things getting that much worse, especially for Latinos who arrived as toddlers or were born in this country...

The Obama administration has, in fact, deported more people than any other previous administration, earning him the nickname “deporter-in-chief.”

We are, after all, as much a nation of immigrants as we are a nation of laws.

And so, under the Obama administration we’ve deported tens of thousands of “unaccompanied minors” mostly from Central America, many of them fleeing drug gangs and violence. Yashua Cantillano, 13, and his 11-year-old brother Alinhoel from Honduras were typical. They fled their home in Tegucigalpa with a change of clothes, water and their mother’s phone number scribbled on a piece of paper.

In the short time Yashua was enrolled in a school, he was among the top achieving students in his class. He was happy and finally felt safe. When I called months later to see what happened, Yashua and his entire family had been deported.

The National Council of La Raza this summer released some eye-opening figures. They show that Latinos under 18 years of age now total 18.2 million in the U.S., a 47 percent spike since 2000.

Most, 62 percent, live in poverty. By 2023, they’ll make up a third of the nation’s total K-12 school enrollment.

So, the question remains. Should Latinos and immigrant kids in particular be more afraid of being profiled and targeted for deportation just because Donald Trump got elected?

Are they more likely to be denied a quality education?

We don’t know. What I do know for certain is that life for many of these young people has never been easy, in or out of school. Its been pretty tough for a long, long time.