Tonight, as I dropped four rising 12th grade girls off after swimming at my parents pool, we were talking about their upcoming senior year and going to college after. One walked away from the car laughing saying, "Oh Mees, you know I can't go to college because I'm illegal." And less than two minutes later, one of the other girls who was still in the car said, "Oh Miss Carroll, I have been thinking a lot about all this awful immigration and deportation stuff, but the one good thing I was thinking was, 'If I get deported, I bet Miss Carroll will come visit me in Honduras since she likes to travel.'"
Let me back up a minute. For those of you who do not know, I work as a social emotional counselor in a school setting. That means I work with students on anything and everything, ranging from suicide to peer pressure, sexual assault to immigration, and conflict resolution to relationship drama. I also happen to speak Spanish, which is the spoken-at-home language for more than half of my 650 students. As you might imagine, I have some thoughts on the immigration crisis.
This is not new for me. Over the past several years, I have had a front row seat to the trauma caused by the atrocities at the border. And what I realized tonight is how de-sensitized I have become to these horrible labels and the effects of the trauma that many of my students have endured.
I have a student who refused to speak for weeks upon his arrival to school, only to find out later he had been detained for three months at the border. Alone. In a cell.
I have a student who regularly tells me, "Oh Mees, if I was still in El Salvador, I would be dead." And as traumatic as that is for a 17 year old boy to realize, what truly breaks my heart about it is not for this boy at all. It is for the thousands and thousands of kids that I don't know. That, for a myriad of reasons, did not make it out of their gang-ridden countries and died there.
I have a student with scars all over her arms from climbing the wall to get into the United States.
I have a student who told me about how he, his older brother, and little sister set out of the United States, but the little sister got caught by border patrol and he has never been so scared in his life because they didn't know what would happen to her but had to keep going.
It is chillingly normal to have a student come in crying, or a family member call to let me know, that the students' parent(s) have been deported.
I wish that I had some earth shattering resolution to this multi-faceted global crisis. I do not. But here is what I do know. As a believer, I feel called to treat others as I want to be treated. As a human being, I feel called to treat all people with respect and dignity. And I can assure you, that has not been the case at the border in recent years, but especially in recent months.
I wholeheartedly disagree with splitting up families. And I know that if I was born in a dangerous, gang-ridden place, I would most certainly hope that I would be allowed to move to a country where my life was not constantly at risk, where I could live safely and be given an education and afforded opportunities for my future.
I also wholeheartedly wish that you could get to know my students. I feel incredibly privileged to know them and know so many of their stories. I wish you knew the 17 year old boy, who makes the honor roll, is captain of the soccer team, picks his two younger brothers up from school each afternoon and works as a painter every weekend to split the rent with his single mom. I wish you knew the mom who buses tables at a restaurant that I frequent, who's two boys have been awarded full scholarships to one of the most prestigious high schools in Nashville. I wish you knew the 16 year old girl who uses a fake social security number because she is so desperate to work at McDonalds 20 hours/week, who translates for her entire extended family of 20+ people and makes sure that all her little siblings and cousins are enrolled in charter and magnet schools to be getting a good education, all while maintaining a 4.0 and being one of the most compassionate humans I have ever met. Because these are the kids that crossed the border illegally. And these people are the future of America that this country needs.
So, for now, you can donate here if you are able. You can march in your respective city. You can call your local lawmakers. All of which I highly recommend, but I also urge you to personally get to know immigrants. Get connected with a family who is new to the country. Become a mentor for a student who is learning english. I promise it will broaden your understanding in the best way.