Organized by the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union in the country, protesters donned white shirts reading “CLASSROOMS NOT CAGES.”
“Whatever it takes, let’s do [immigration] right,” AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus told VOA News.
“But, until then, these kids are dying. These kids are suffering. These kids are not getting schooling the way they should,” DeJesus added. “And the teachers are here, ready to school them, to teach them, to love them.”
During President Donald Trump’s time in office,
Linda Lindsey, a teacher from Massachusetts, described how her mother emigrated from Italy at the age of 6, fleeing Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Lindsey’s grandfather had papers that allowed the rest of the family to join him in the United States, she said.
“I probably wouldn’t be here if these stricter [immigration] laws were in place,” she told VOA. “This issue is near and dear to my heart.”
Lindsey recalled a student this year whose uncle was detained for weeks after entering the U.S. for a family vacation. Another student stopped talking in class after revealing he wasn’t a citizen.
Inslee, the governor of Washington state, also spoke at the protest. He told VOA the legal clampdown on undocumented migrants was “both wrong and unnecessary.”
“Prosecuting a mother who has walked across the border with a 3-year-old is not a good use of our criminal justice system,” he said. He stopped short, however, of supporting decriminalization of border crossings.
Remain in Mexico
Toughened policies apply to asylum-seekers, too. The Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy forces asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases are decided.
“They have a legal right to come into this country and claim asylum made by international laws,” said Jose Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, a leadership nonprofit. “What’s happened is that they’ve been conflated (with criminals) — every time (Trump) talks about immigration, he immediately starts talking about (the gang) MS-13 and all of these other things.”
The Trump administration has said this prevents migrants from using asylum to stay in the country illegally. Opponents argue the
Asked about the future, DeJesus, of the American Federation of Teachers, said the group would continue its efforts.
“We’re going to look for legislation. We’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to knock on every door,” she said. “We are serious about this because this could be you. This could be me. They all look like us.”
AFT members and other advocates protest again at a larger vigil Friday evening, one of nearly 800 sister events worldwide.