Organizers respond amidst fears of family separation | Leadership for Educational Equity Skip to main content

Organizers respond amidst fears of family separation

  • Viri Carrizales at SA RISE action in March, photo credit: Bonnie Arbittier/Rivard Report

Across the United States, thousands of immigrant children are currently being held in detention centers after being separated from their parents while crossing the southern border.

While reunification efforts are reportedly underway, many children continue to wait.

In the months since this policy has gone into effect, a number of LEE members across the South have been working to ensure equitable policies are in place for children in detention centers. Edith Rahimian has partnered with a group of healthcare professionals to ensure that the children are being taken care of while they’re detained.

“We’re figuring out what our asks and advocacy work will be. The city of Houston was able to stop the new shelter from opening up, but there are seven or eight shelters already. I’m partnering with healthcare professionals to make sure there is very specific criteria about who should be running the shelter,” said Edith. “There should be board certified pediatric doctors and nurses and mental health professionals.”

As someone who came to the United States for political asylum, Edith is also worried about the retraumatization of undocumented folks who are already living in the country.

“There are DACA students who have reverted back to only leaving the house when they have to. Family plans are back in place. And younger, documented students are having fears of being separated from their families. That’s what’s happening to folks that are already here.”

Viri Carrizales is a member of SA RISE, a group of LEE members and educators that organizes around important issues in San Antonio. Recently, several members went down to Rio Grande Valley to protest outside the detention center.

“We’re making sure this is something we don’t stay silent on. We want people here in San Antonio to realize that our community has a responsibility,” said Viri. “We’re 90 miles away from one of the largest detention centers in the country.”

SA RISE has spent a lot of time working on immigration issues, including partnering with the San Antonio Independent School District to create policies to protect immigrant students.

“We were able to get a resolution passed in support of undocumented students and families to make sure the schools are safe and welcoming for the immigrant community. We also created a manual for the way the community and police should interact with students. The school district’s job isn’t to instill fear or be immigration enforcement. This handbook is one of the first of its kind in the country, and definitely the first in Texas.”

LEE member Angela Cobián is one of seven Denver Public Schools Board of Education members. Dozens of DPS principals recently rallied to show the schools’ continued commitment to undocumented students. Angela and other board members approved a resolution at the rally that promised to support students who have experienced trauma after being separated from their families. But Angela told Westword that family separation is nothing new, and that immigrant families across the country have been dealing with the fear for some time.

“Even before this current administration, I saw firsthand what that did to my students and their families. How can you expect a child to sit criss-cross applesauce or be interested in reading or learning their math facts when they know that their parents are not there at home?”

Wondering what you can do to help reunite children and parents who have been separated? LEE member Vanessa Luna has five ways you can get involved right now.