The union representing Pittsburgh Public School teachers is offering resources explaining how they can help immigrant and refugee children whose families are at risk of deportation.
Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said teachers have asked the union for ways they could support their students.
Since the election of President Donald Trump, and his recent executive order on immigration, she said the union has received numerous reports that students are anxious about threats from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
“Now that we do have the president we have now, and we know this is a policy and a focus, kids are getting increasingly more nervous about it and they see what’s happening on television,” she said. “They see what’s happening in Pittsburgh. They see what’s going on.”
The Pittsburgh Public School District became a “sanctuary campus” last month. The board unanimously passed a resolution barring immigration agents from schools without clearance from the district’s legal department and superintendent.
The resolution states the board recognizes, “potential for ICE officials to conduct increased enforcement efforts to detain undocumented individuals and that such efforts may result in ICE officials seeking to enter upon school grounds for purposes of enforcement,” and that the board will, “do everything in its power to afford equal protection of all members of our community from attempts to criminalize or target them based on race, ethnicity, immigration status, or national origin.”
Schools are one of the places ICE said in a 2011 policy that it will not conduct immigration enforcement activities including arrests, interviews and searches.
Esposito-Visgitis said teachers need to be prepared to help their students because their jobs reach beyond what happens in the classroom.
“Students bring what’s happening in their lives and their neighborhoods every day,” she said. “We have to be ready to deal with the whole child.”
The union is sending educators material about ways they can help support undocumented students, including counseling students who have a family member detained by ICE and working with parents to develop a raid emergency plan. The union is also talking to teachers about what rights their immigrant students have under federal law.