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Life in the Trump era is especially difficult for immigrant families. CNN’s Catherine Shoichet explores the ripple effects of ICE’s deportation strategy following last week’s workplace raid in Tennessee. After Trump’s agents arrested nearly 100 people, over 500 students missed school the next day.
The piece is excerpted below and available online here.
Kids who are supposed to be learning about light waves, radio waves and the electromagnetic spectrum, she says, are instead wondering if they’ll ever see their loved ones again.
Federal agents arrested 97 immigrants that day, ICE spokeswoman Tammy Spicer said. Most of them face administrative charges for allegedly being in the United States illegally.
As rumors flew and fear mounted about what happened at the plant, activists say local teachers stepped in to help.
Some rode buses home with students that afternoon, said Colleen Jacobs, youth ministry coordinator at St. Patrick Catholic Church in nearby Morristown, Tennessee.
“When the students got to their homes, they weren’t sure that there would be anyone there to meet them,” she said.
On Friday, about 530 students didn’t come to class in Hamblen County schools, Superintendent Jeff Perry said. That’s about 5% of the district’s roughly 10,000 students, and nearly a quarter of its Latino student population. A typical day might see around 75 absences.
Some of the students who didn’t show up weren’t directly affected by the raid, said Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Refugee & Immigrant Rights Coalition.
“Other families are afraid that if their kids go to school and they go to work, that maybe they won’t see each other again,” she said.
The last time Rita walked through Hillcrest Elementary School in Morristown, she felt lost and alone. That was 10 years ago. Her father had just been deported. She was too scared to tell her classmates. She would just stare out the window, holding onto his red jacket and wishing he’d come home.
On Monday, she looked out at her old school gym and couldn’t believe her eyes. This was where she used to run the mile, where she played basketball and dodgeball with friends.
Now it was the site of a prayer vigil for families whose loved ones had been detained in the raid. To Rita, the gym looked just like it did when she was a kid — with one major difference. It was packed wall-to-wall with people from the community who had come to help.
“I felt like I had the support I needed finally after 10 years,” said Rita, who asked to only be identified by her first name out of fear for her family’s safety.
For days, she says, she’s been offering advice to families affected by the raid: Find strength in your pain.
“When I was little and I was sitting (in those) same exact bleachers, you know what I thought, ‘I don’t have a voice.’ But 10 years later, today, standing here in this exact same gym, I know that my voice is powerful,” she told the crowd at Monday’s vigil.
Behind her, a handwritten sign hung from a basketball hoop, half in English, half in Spanish. “Morristown is ‘hogar.’ ” Morristown is home.
Child after child came to the microphone.
A boy described how his dad, who was detained in the raid, used to make dinner and play soccer with him.
“One time,” he said, “he even taught me how to shave, even though I don’t have the hair yet.”
A little girl stepped forward, her hair in a ponytail, her head unable to peer above the podium.
She handed a letter to a man emceeing the event and asked him to read it:
“My uncle takes care of me when I am sick. He always helps me after school. He takes me places like the mall and helps me with my homework. He’s a good person. I feel angry and sad they took him away.”
Another child followed her to the front of the room, reading a letter about his uncle. He paused after he finished and looked out at the crowd.
“Thank you,” he said, “for hearing me.”