The divisive nature of Trump’s immigration policies and political grandstanding hurts students, creating fear and uncertainty among students of color and immigrants.
It seems as if every day someone in my classroom brings up Donald Trump. In almost every instance, my students will use his name disparagingly. For example, students recently had some down time after state mandated testing. I overheard one student discussing Trump’s proposed wall. He was concerned that if the wall were built, he might not be able to visit his grandmother in Mexico or get back into the United States after a visit. The student in question was born in the US, but there is a great deal of misinformation that is being spread and that misinformation is generating fear among certain communities. What is clear is that Trump politics hurts students well-being and interferes with their learning.
The overwhelming majority of my students are latino and most of them have family still in Mexico or other regions of Central and South America. At various times in past years, whenever a particular idea is floated to reduce or reverse immigration (illegal or legal), or if some major newsmaker appears racist or “anti-Mexican”, my students have exhibited either anger or fear at any mention. I will often overhear them quietly discussing political issues or they will ask me questions that I often have no answer to.
Topics such as Proposition 187 in California, drivers licenses for immigrants, Trump’s wall, even gay marriage, all have had direct impacts on students and learning. Fear of the future or of politicians does not manifest well in education. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center recently stated “[The Trump Effect is] producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported.” This is further confirmation that the divisive politics of Donald Trump impacts students of color, immigrants, and their learning.
Donald Trump’s politics has a direct influence on the lives of students and in many ways mirror policies first acted upon during the Eisenhower administration. In a massive deportation dubbed “operation wetback” more than 1.3 million immigrants were sent packing. When asked about this policy, Donald Trump replied “it was a very effective chapter [in American history].”
The fear of forced deportation saturates the lives of millions of immigrants. This is particularly true with immigrant students. Trump politics hurt students because they and much of their families may have little to no impact on the outcome of elections or on immigration policy.
Should Donald Trump win the election in November, the anti-immigrant drum beat will likely intensify. Donald Trump is not good for America, and he is even worse for education.