Terrified immigrant parents kept thousands of children home from school following an ICE raid that targeted the New Mexico community of Las Cruces last month, resulting in a 60 percent spike in absences that the district’s superintendent called “alarming”:
On February 15th, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice) officers conducted a raid in Las Cruces, arresting people at a trailer park on the outskirts of town. The raid came a few weeks after President Trump signed two executive orders, signalling his plans to fulfill a campaign promise of cracking down on undocumented immigrants. Rumors spread that there were further raids planned, though none took place. On February 16th, a Thursday, Las Cruces’s public schools saw a sixty-per-cent spike in absences compared to the previous week—twenty-one hundred of the district’s twenty-five thousand students missed school. Two thousand students stayed away again the next day. Attendance returned to normal the following week, which made the two-day rash of absences all the more pronounced. “It was alarming,” Greg Ewing, the district’s superintendent, told me. News of the raid caused such fear in the community that Ewing wrote a letter to parents on the 16th, in English and Spanish, reassuring them that “we do not anticipate any ice activity occurring on school campuses.”
At the city’s high schools—Arrowhead Park Early College High is nearly entirely Latino, according to the New Yorker—absentee rates went up by 25 percent following the raid and subsequent rumors. But at the city’s elementary and middle schools, where younger students are more likely to be dropped off by an undocumented immigrant parent or relative, the numbers skyrocketed.
“In the two days after the raids, absences at elementary schools rose by almost a hundred and fifty per cent.”
ICE issued a 2011 “policy memo to field officers outlining a list of so-called ‘sensitive locations’—including schools, churches, and hospitals—where they should refrain from searching, interrogating, or arresting individuals ‘for the purpose of immigration enforcement,’” but advocates don’t trust Trump regime officials to uphold Obama-era instructions.
What is assured here is that we are traumatizing a generation of children. According to a 2013 Health Impact Study, “almost three-fourths of undocumented parents with children under the age of 18 reported that their children experienced symptoms of PTSD, including repetitive thoughts about stressful experiences, avoidance of certain activities, and hyper-alert behavior.”
“Nearly 30 percent of undocumented parents reported that their children were afraid all or most of the time.”
Another study found that children who have had one parent who has been deported “may also suffer from poverty, diminished access to food and health care, mental health and behavioral problems and limited educational opportunities.” An estimated 5 million U.S. citizen children in this nation have at least one undocumented parent.
As raids continue to terrorize immigrant communities across the nation, expect these kinds of tragedies to become more and more common. Donald Trump keeps pledging that America will return to winning again, but it’s really our kids who are losing here.