10 Strategies Schools Can Use to Support Students After an Immigration Raid

Learn how schools can support students and families impacted by an immigration raid such as those that recently occurred in Mississippi. For additional ideas, see After an Immigration Raid: Information for Schools.

When an immigration raid happens in the local community, there are a few important things that schools can do to support students impacted by the raid. Keep in mind that, in some cases, these students are reunited with their family members who were arrested, but in others, the adults are detained or deported. Many families may undergo upheaval, loss of income, or periods of great stress and uncertainty.

For more related ideas, see 10 Strategies for How Schools Should Respond to Help Children Impacted by ICE Raids (also available as a bilingual infographic) from the Intercultural Research Development Association.

Strategies for Schools

Check in with families where possible.

This may be best achieved through a staff member or community partner who already has a relationship with the family. Students may still be experiencing upheaval or may not have yet been reunited with their family members. In some cases, children may not return to your school. Find out how students are responding to the trauma so that staff can be prepared if the children return to school and if the families need any support in reconnecting with each other. IDRA notes that schools may need to create a safe space where students and families can wait if a caregiver is detained.

Let your families know you are there for them.

Send the message that they and their children are welcome in your school and that you will do what you can to help them through this difficult time. IDRA encourages schools to be vigilant regarding bullying and harassment following the raids.

Keep in mind that the impacts of the raid will look different for various age groups.

  • Educators of young children may wish to watch for signs of trauma that can impact healthy development and attachment.
  • Educators of older elementary and secondary students should be aware that the students may have additional responsibilities at home (financial, caretaking for younger siblings, managing contact with detained family members, etc.). They may also be experiencing high levels of stress, trauma, uncertainty, and anxiety.

In addition, the age of the child may determine whether or not the parent/caregiver was released from custody.

Look for ways to maximize social-emotional support for students.

This might involve:

  • Training for staff, counselors, and teachers in trauma-based practices
  • Using small group sessions
  • Asking families for their input on what practices are appropriate in their culture
  • Creating partnerships with local hospitals, universities, and health organizations to provide additional trained professionals.

Ask the community what is most needed.

Check in with families for ideas, as well as community partners. Local residents may want to show support for the children; having some specific ideas on how they can help will make that support more effective.

Be prepared for major disruption in students' lives, especially in terms of housing and financial stability.

Families may have lost one, two, or more breadwinners in the raid. They may start moving on a regular basis. Helping families address basic needs is an area where school support and partnerships with local volunteers, organizations, and businesses can make a significant difference, particularly in the areas of food security.

Note: IDRA explains that supports for homeless students based on the "McKinney-Vento" Act can play an important role in helping students who might have been left homeless after the raid.

Be prepared for student absences from school for an extended period of time.

This is a typical pattern after immigration raids and can last for some time.

Prepare to answer questions families' questions about immigration enforcement at school.

As of this writing, the Department of Homeland Security still recognizes "sensitive locations" where immigration enforcement should not take place without certain prior approvals and "exigent" (pressing) circumstances requiring immediate action. These include schools, school bus stops, university campuses, and preschools.

Review "sensitive locations" guidance, your own district policies, disicpline policies, and privacy policies so that you are well-prepared to answer families' questions, especially as they think about sending their children back to school. In addition, look for ways to reiterate your commitment to create safe, welcoming schools for families and to ensure that your school understands the legal rights of immigrant students.

Note: IDRA cautions that the presence of police officers may re-traumatize students and families.

Review your policies and procedures in the event of further immigration enforcement activity, and share your lessons learned with colleagues.

Use this experience to improve your own practices and those of your colleagues by asking questions such as:

  • Did you have protocols in place for this situation around taking care of the children in the hours after the raid and locating known caregivers?
  • Did your emergency contact information work?
  • Do you provide regular reminders to families to update emergency contacts?
  • What other lessons did you learn?

Provide support for the staff who are handling this emotionally taxing work.

Check in with them and give them chances to debrief and access the support they need.

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