English Learners

Educators to Trump: ELL, Immigrant Students Need Safe, Well-Funded Schools

By Corey Mitchell — January 26, 2017 2 min read
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TESOL International Association, the nation’s largest organization for teachers who specialize in working with English-learners, has asked President Donald Trump and his top education advisers to honor the rights of students regardless of national origin or native language.

As we reported prior to Election Day, Trump’s statements on race, religion, and immigration—that many Mexican immigrants are drug dealers, rapists, and other types of criminals, that Muslims are a danger to America, and his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border—have reverberated through the nation’s K-12 schools, sparking student fears.

This week, Trump signed executive orders that ordered construction of that border wall, called for stripping federal-funding from so-called “sanctuary cities” that shield immigrants, and announced new criteria that could make more undocumented immigrants priorities for deportation.

“The cost of not supporting our students, especially our English learners, with the proper funding and access to safe schools staffed with highly trained educators, puts the ideological foundations of a free and just society in jeopardy. In addition, it can be detrimental to the nation’s economy,” reads a letter the organization wrote to Trump and his advisers.

Groups such as Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center aimed at providing resources to K-12 schools to help advance equity and inclusion, told Education Week that the “threat of mass deportations has unnerved many children and educators.” Many of those students are among the nation’s 4.5 million English-language learners.

In the letter, TESOL also discussed the role that the Every Student Succeeds Act and career and technical education play in helping English-learners, immigrant or not, find work and a sense of belonging in the United States.

“By providing English language instruction, civics education, and workforce training, the adult education system serves as the de facto immigrant integration system in the U.S.,” the letter reads.

The letter is just the latest public call for support for immigrant students and English-learners as the Trump administration rolls out its immigration enforcement policies.

Some groups and districts have extended their efforts beyond letter writing. School board members in several districts, including Los Angeles Unified and Pittsburgh, have designated their districts as “sanctuary campuses” to protect students who are living in the country illegally. In Los Angeles, the school board president is concerned that the move could lead to cuts in federal aid.

Here’s a look at the letter.

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Blog Photo Credit: Keyla Estrada, 19, is an immigrant from Mexico and a student at Erwin High School in Asheville. In her first week at the school in 2015, controversy erupted when some students created posters with anti-immigrant messages as part of a civics assignment. --Jacob Biba for Education Week

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