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David Douglas School District: It's Time to Stand Up

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Protect Our Most Vulnerable Children and Families

Some might call me an anchor baby.

In 1986 an immigration officer came to my second grade classroom in Wenatchee, Washington. While everyone watched, I was asked to clean out my desk and go with him. I was a good student. I was very scared and felt humiliated.

I then came out to see my mom was handcuffed outside. I had never seen her drink a drop of alcohol, smoke a cigarette, or say a swear word. I can still picture how sad she looked as I had never seen that expression. Off we went on a plane that very day to Mexico. Deported as a result of raids where my mother worked. Only I was an American citizen, with nobody to care for me...so I went too.

These are the words of my sister, Ezzy (Esmeralda). This is her story. Five years later at the vulnerable age of 13, she came to live with us as a member of our family, seeking a safe place where she could thrive academically and personally. Every bit my sibling, Ezzy has been there for me during all of life’s big celebrations and traumas—from my wedding and the birth of my twins to medical emergencies and joyous holidays.

Today Ezzy is the embodiment of the so-called American Dream. She earned a Master’s Degree from Seattle University, and—never having forgotten her past—she has spent her career in service to others. For years she worked at a nonprofit agency that helps 64,000 people annually through programs that provide the stability, skills, and knowledge needed to exit poverty. Now she is employed at a university helping to ensure low-income, high-potential students have the means to go to college.

It appears we are entering an era when stories like Ezzy's may become commonplace, a time families are again at risk of deportation. Many of our David Douglas kids go to bed at night afraid of being separated from their parents. In our public discourse, undocumented immigrants and even their American-born children are demonized and blamed for all of society’s wrongs. In truth, these David Douglas students are our children's classmates and friends, young people with enormous potential, and their parents make up the fabric of our industrious East Portland community.

Our schools must be safe places where all children are protected. I, for one, am not willing to live in a world where one of my six-year-olds comes home crying because a classmate was taken away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in uniform. 

For this reason, I support the recent statements issued by Portland Public Schools, Reynolds School District, Portland Community College and other academic institutions affirming the rights of undocumented students. It is time for David Douglas School Board to let the community know where they stand. To say nothing of the matter speaks volumes.

This topic isn’t cerebral or intellectual for me; it’s personal. To vote against a statement of support for undocumented students is to vote against my own sister and my values. And this, my friends, is something I could never do. Please join with me in urging the David Douglas School Board to pass a statement of support for our children. ICE has no place in our schools.

The Board Agenda for Thursday, March 9 includes a discussion of this issue and a possible vote on an Inclusive District resolution, put forward by Board Member Andrea Valderrama. Please consider attending this meeting and lending your voice to its passage.

Click here to attend the next David Douglas School Board meeting on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

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