New Media Academy at Hollywood High School

Op-Ed: Deportation and tearing families apart can never be ok

Deportations. During my 18 years of teaching, I have had to bare witness to the madness: dads deported, moms deported, moms hidden in churches to avoid it, whole neighborhoods swept into INS buses.

Ten days of school left and a student just emailed explaining why she won’t be attending and if she could get the assignments some other way.  She is an Honors student of mine, so incredibly intelligent, such a gifted writer. Her father was deported two weeks ago, and while waiting to connect with family members in Tijuana, Mexico, he was kidnapped and is being held for ransom. The family paid what was asked of them, only to be told there was an additional payment they must make. They have received phone calls and photos, and know the dad is terribly beaten, but currently still alive.

It is hard for me to describe the range of emotions I am feeling at the moment. I am angry over our government’s policy of deportations. I am fearful for all the families with undocumented members in this country, in our state, in our city, in our schools, and those sitting in my classes. One student has confided in me that his parents have hidden money all over their apartment in case they are deported, so that he has some money to take care of his little brother in their absence. Inexplicable depression for not having the words or the means to offer any real assistance to this student as her emails come through my computer, typed tears, written anguish.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, 240,000 human beings were “removed” during 2016, down from the 2012 heyday of 409,000.  Of these, “58 percent of all ICE removals, or 138,669, were previously convicted of a crime.”  The father of my student that was recently deported was serving a few months jail sentence for a DUI charge, which is terrible for sure, but deportable offense? Not in my eyes.  I wonder what the other crimes that people are being deported for, separating families, forcing remaining family members into abject poverty from the loss of income.

According to several news sources, the cost of a single deportation is difficult to calculate, but can be estimated between $10,800 and $27,000 per deportee (average $18,900). For 2016 alone, that would mean an approximate cost of $453.6 million. This is staggering, and when combined with the “removals” year after year after year, heartbreaking.

I have spent 20 years working in public schools where deplorable conditions only continue to decline due to the lack of funding available, and it’s about to get much worse with Trump’s recent education budget cut announcements.

There are a plethora of studies published that show clearly how mass deportations are bad for the economy as a whole. There is common sense that tells us if someone is deported back to a country they haven’t lived in their entire adult life, with family members left behind, they will do what any of us would: they would try to return to life they know and their loved ones.  Meaning that deporting people, especially when involving separation of families, is a futile exercise.

I beg of anyone reading this to do something. Write an Op-Ed piece, call a congressperson or simply attempt to really educate yourself on the topic of the U.S.’s history of exploiting the immigrant labor force and the true value of all the labor bestowed by undocumented hands.

I beg of everyone reading this to understand that tearing families apart can never be ok. Think about being ripped out of your family.  As a mother, the idea of being separated from my son is something that would drive me to the brink of my sanity. Try then to empathize, to whatever degree possible, with the families in our communities that this is happening to right now. And then, try to take action.