As school starts, some Hispanic students, parents on edge

A racially motivated mass shooting in Texas and a mammoth immigration sweep in Mississippi have some Latino students and their parents in Kansas on edge as a new school year begins.

Adriana Holguin, a migrant education program advocate at the Southwest Plains Regional Center in Sublette, said one mother of a migrant family told her that the family prays each day that they will be together at the end of the day “because at this point you are never sure about another tomorrow.”

Patrick Crusius, who was charged in the Walmart shooting in El Paso, Texas that left 22 dead, confessed and said he targeted people of Mexican descent, police said.

Just days after the massacre, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested nearly 700 undocumented workers at several food-processing plants in Mississippi. The raids came during the first week of school for many of the affected communities. News reports showed stranded children crying and local officials, including school officials, scrambling to comfort the children and provide food and shelter.

President Trump praised the raids as necessary, but immigrant rights groups condemned them, saying the actions have frightened communities already on edge from the shooting.

“On a day when we seek unifying words and acts to heal the nation’s broken heart, President Trump allows so many families and communities to be torn apart,” Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, said in a statement.

The day after the Mississippi raids, 25 percent of one school district’s Latino student population were absent from school. Attendance improved a day later, but school officials told CNN they were visiting the homes of absent children to tell them the children would be safe at school.

Holguin said children seeing reports of parents being swept up in raids makes them nervous, in addition to going to schools that have a large minority population — fearing that would make them a target for someone who wanted to harm minorities.

“I have been hearing different reactions from the families,” she said. “I think as a community we should speak to the families and encourage them to visit with the school’s staff if there is a safety concern they have in mind. As well as touring the school to learn more on how and what their school is doing to keep their children safe during school hours. Most importantly getting to know the school counselor and finding out if there is something already in place or how they will go about tackling these issues if they were to come up,” Holguin said.

At Liberal USD 480, which is about 70 percent Hispanic, Superintendent Renae Hickert said the district has moved up its active shooter simulations and the district has invested in keyless entry, which helps officials track who enters school buildings.

“Our biggest challenge is increasing the awareness of our staff members and students that shootings/violence can happen anywhere. It is not uncommon to find doors propped open by staff or see staff/students letting someone they do not know in the buildings …,” she said.

In Dodge City, police on Thursday arrested a 13-year-old high school student in connection with a possible threat of violence to the high school.

Across the country, Latino students have expressed anxiety about increasing danger tied to a resurgence in racist rhetoric and attacks.

Roman Pastrana, 17, a high school student in southeast El Paso, told Education Week, “I am Hispanic, and this (the shooting) was solely targeted toward the Hispanic culture and Mexicans. My family is documented and we’re residents, but regardless of that fact, we’re just scared. We’re afraid that something can go down. Personally, I didn’t want to go to school. Anywhere I go, I feel threatened.”

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