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Indy Children Are Living in Fear. Here's Why.

Current Events & News, Legislation | 01/30/2017

Justin Ohlemiller
Executive Director

Justin Ohlemiller is the executive director of Stand for Children Indiana.

“What is it like to live with the constant fear that a loved one, who your children count on every day, could be gone tomorrow?”

That was the first question I asked one of our IPS parent advocates, Manny Martinez, when I called him to talk about these uncertain times for immigrant families. The Trump administration has been quiet on any repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA), which was the policy put in place by President Obama to halt the deportation of young undocumented immigrants.

Why does Stand for Children care about this issue, seeing that we’re an education advocacy organization and not in the immigration policy business? I’ll let Manny answer that question with his excellent, yet troubling, testimony from last night’s IPS school board meeting. Manny bravely made the request for IPS to take action to help inform immigrant students and families about their rights.

Already, IPS officials like Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee and Board President Mary Ann Sullivan have joined more than 1,700 education leaders in signing on this Stand letter calling on President Trump to maintain DACA.

Parents like Manny think more should be done for immigrant families in our schools. Here’s his story from last night’s board meeting:

My name is Manny Martinez. I am a father of two children that attend IPS 74.  I am here today in light of the recent immigration threats impacting the Latino community in Indianapolis.  My kids have grandparents who migrated here. We are all worried about them getting taken away. They are caretakers for the kids. They put them on the bus, help with the homework, and are role models for their behavior.

It is not only my kids’ grandparents who face fear. They have cousins who also have fears with parents being deported. This is producing a toxic environment that does not allow for kids to learn.

Many parents are worried about being separated from children. There is a sense that this could happen at any time.

I see that many Latino families in IPS are in this situation. Perhaps this is why parents fear being out in public or even entering our school buildings.

I want to ask the IPS board to provide support to families to ease parents’ fears and help them know their rights. Educate the community on laws. It is important that parents know how they can best help their children, which could in turn stave off chronic absenteeism, and present opportunities for students to realize their dreams. I know that many parents come to America to realize the American dream, and education is the key to success for many.

Our schools should remain a safe haven for learning. I want to ask that you support Latino families by making our district one that supports the learning of all children. I want to thank Dr. Ferebee and the school board commissioners for their efforts to support our Latino community in Indianapolis.

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