AFT President Urges Big-City Mayors to Shield Immigrant Students, Families

By Corey Mitchell — February 15, 2017 3 min read
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Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, is calling on the nation’s big-city mayors to set up safe havens for immigrants after federal agents arrested nearly 700 undocumented residents in a series of raids conducted over the past week.

Child advocates say the recent immigration sweeps and future actions on immigration policy by the Trump administration could disrupt home lives, separate families, and have a “chilling effect” on children and communities. The raids could be just the first step in President Donald Trump’s promised crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

“We at the American Federation of Teachers are worried about the chilling effects these ICE raids have on our communities. More specifically, we are concerned about the psychological impact the raids have on children because, as educators, we know that circumstances outside the classroom have a major impact on our students’ educational success,” Weingarten wrote in a letter to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“The AFT calls on the mayors of Atlanta; Austin and Dallas, Texas; Oklahoma City and other cities across the country who have not yet reiterated their support for undocumented immigrants to resist these attempts at inflicting terror on communities of people who simply want to share in the American dream.”

Mayors in those have not declared themselves “sanctuary cities,” which prohibit police officers from enforcing immigration laws or cooperating with federal immigration officials. Trump has vowed to cut federal funding to municipalities that make the declaration.

John Kelly, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement that 75 percent of the people who were swept up in the raids were “criminal aliens,” and that the enforcement actions led to the arrests of “more than 680 individuals who pose a threat to public safety, border security, or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.” He emphasized that the sweeps were part of a series of “targeted enforcement operations” that have occurred regularly for years.

Weingarten’s letter also references a White House executive order that temporarily suspended residents of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. A federal district court halted the travel ban and a federal appeals court declined the Trump administration’s request to reinstate it. President Trump is now considering a revised executive order.

In addressing the two-page letter to former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat and the past president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Weingarten bypassed the current president, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornet, a Republican. In December, Cornett meet with then-president-elect Trump in New York to discuss immigration and law enforcement among other issues.

“Nothing frustrates mayors more than having immigration policies that aren’t being enforced,” Cornett said in a Jan. 20 interview with the Atlantic’s City Lab.

“Watching immigrants in our city, [we] know that [immigration] leads to a stronger economy. Most of us in the United States are either immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrants. I don’t think the United States is anti-immigrant,” he also said in the interview.

Weingarten calls out Cornett’s city in the letter to Rawlings-Blake. Take a look the letter here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.