Baltimore deportations the focus of fear for students

Posted at 11:41 PM, Mar 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-24 06:51:27-04

Undocumented immigrants are being arrested at an increased rate after an executive order by President Donald Trump, and kids are scared. 

The fear around immigration and deportation was the focus of an education investigative hearing held by Baltimore City Council.

Listening to Spanish translations on headphones, members of the Baltimore immigrant community sit across from members of the city council as they seek answers. Their question  to students and parents: What does it mean to be the child of an immigrant in Baltimore?

Deportation is something on the mind not just parents, but students who are catching everything that's going on.

"My son told me he doesn't want to go to school," Lourdes Ortega, a parent and Hondurian immigrant.

The meeting was held at John Rurah Elementary, which is where Ortega's son attends classes. Word has spread to students at the school, she said, that two undocumented men were arrested by immigration agents last month near a Walgreens in Highlandtown, and now facing deportation.

"It's creating trauma for them," Ortega said. "Most of the kids are getting sick because they don't know how to react."

About 20 schools in the district serve students learning English, compared only to the more than 80 different nations city students hail from.

Counseling services have been deployed at schools affected by the arrests according to the district's CEO, referring here, to students who are still learning English.

A group of students projected to grow by 10 percent next year.

"We are really ramping up our support to make sure that (English learning) students, immigrant families, and their young people have full access to all that city schools has to offer," said Dr. Sonja Santelises, CEO of the city school district.

The next step is for council members, who held the meeting, to take the concerns of parents and students and turn them into tangible actions.

City council passed a resolution earlier this week telling immigration agents to only arrest undocumented immigrants who engage in criminal behavior. Councilman Zeke Cohen set a meeting with a high-ranking immigration official for next week.