Fears are running high at a North Side school that has a significant number of immigrant students and is grappling with questions over President Donald Trump’s controversial ban on refugees and others from majority-Muslim countries.
Parents, staff and community members at Swift Elementary in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood mobilized to support the students and their families on Thursday, holding a rally outside the school before hosting a workshop on immigrants’ rights.
“With the executive order, I think this is the first time we felt that type of urgency to do this,” said Dori Gorman, a parent and member of Swift’s local school council. She and several other parents and staff helped organize Thursday’s events.
Staff members at Swift estimate that 40 percent of the school’s students were born outside the U.S., and 50 children are refugees.
Luis Huerta-Silva, an organizer with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, outlined what information people should share with law enforcement officials and their lawyers if they are detained by federal immigration agents.
He also urged them to resist hiding as criticism of some immigrants increases. Huerta-Silva said that increasing their visibility in organizations, such as churches and schools, could be helpful if they are detained by immigration enforcement.
“If you are regularly involved in something, and you miss an event or you miss some sort of gathering, people will notice that you are missing,” Huerta-Silva said. “And more people will know who you are, and more people will be able to advocate on your behalf.”
Muluken Mekonen, an Ethiopian immigrant and father of two students, has been involved with the school’s parent advisory committee. Though Trump’s ban doesn’t directly affect him, he said he felt it was important to attend Thursday’s workshop.
“The information that’s going around is scary, you know?” he said, adding he’s fearful that measures targeting immigrants will be expanded.
“We came here to get protection,” he said. “Now we start, like, having that fear.”
Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @oyousef.