Process and Protest and Detained Immigrant Children

Guy Johnson | Sr. Program Director, Federal and National Networks, Partners for Each and Every Child

Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of people across the country are expected to march in protest of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” criminal prosecution of immigrants crossing the southern border, the forced separation of immigrant families by government officials, and the federal government’s lack of transparency regarding the location, welfare, and future of detained immigrant children.

But to focus solely on the massive numbers of people planning to take to the streets this weekend is to miss a significant part of the story: the protests are already in full swing, they are driven by diverse constituencies, and they have been going for quite some time. Almost 600 people were arrested in the Hart Office building of the United States Senate yesterday while protesting the Trump administration’s current immigration policy. Individuals have been protesting in front of various immigrant detention centers in Texas and elsewhere; protestors have tried to block the passage of a bus filled with detained immigrant children; workers and advocates are leaking video footage and audio from inside detention centers where the federal government has prohibited the use of cameras and recording devices.

We have written in great detail about how educational excellence and educational equity are so closely intertwined as to be symbiotic and about how educational excellence rises or falls on meeting the needs of our most vulnerable and underserved students. While these kinds of conceptual discussions may feel misplaced considering the violence currently being visited upon immigrant children, they nevertheless provide guidance and a structure for principled analysis in a time of great political volatility, an ongoing maelstrom of news from Washington, D.C., and tremendous unpredictability in federal policy and governance.

Educational equity means that every student has access to the resources and rigorous coursework they need at the right moment in their education. The pursuit of equity and excellence begins with efforts to dismantle historical barriers of racism and pernicious discrimination through strong and transparent accountability, meaningful and inclusive dialogue, publicly and easily accessible information and data, and equitable distribution of resources based on need.

By this standard, the current treatment of immigrant children — the system that supports the abuse of these children and their families — is a moral and civic failure:

This all must be taken in context: over the past few weeks our country has debated whether principals and teachers should enforce immigration laws and point fingers at known or “suspected” immigrants; the elimination of domestic abuse and gang violence as reasons our country will grant asylum to immigrants; the possibility of a forced vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that President Trump ended months ago.

I urge you to take action and protest the federal government’s treatment of these children and families. Your voice is vitally important in this process and contains what hope we have for redemption. Television, social media, and radio will carry news of this weekend’s marches in major American cities, but there are also other, equally impactful ways of registering your dissent that are quieter, less visible, and perhaps more subversive.

I look forward to seeing you there.