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Members learn how to aid immigrant students

New York Teacher
Jonathan Fickes

Shawn Chandlier (center), who teachers English as a second language to adults in Queens, attends an immigration training session at UFT headquarters on Dec. 7.

Sixty UFT members from across the city gathered at union headquarters in Manhattan on Dec. 7 to learn how they can help immigrant students who are at risk of harassment and deportation.

“We are committed to helping our students and families through this difficult time,” said Evelyn DeJesus, the UFT vice president for education who organized the training. “To do that, we have to be informed about the policies affecting their lives.”

The UFT Delegate Assembly in March passed a resolution to mobilize members in support of immigrant and Muslim students and members and their families. The union hoped to use the session to develop a cadre of members throughout the city who could provide training to chapters or districts.

President Trump is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, on March 5, 2018. The program, created by President Obama in 2012, shielded 800,000 people nationwide, including 33,000 in New York City. It enabled these undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children to obtain driver’s licenses, enroll in college and work legally.

“I think when you’re a teacher you understand some students are undocumented but you don’t know who is at risk,” said Shawn Chandler, who teaches English as a second language to adults in Queens. “Attendance is volatile, sometimes because of a job, but sometimes because of ICE.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests have increased since Trump took office.

César Moreno Pérez, the AFT’s senior associate for human rights and community relations, led the two-hour training, where participants received information on everything from how to respond to ICE agents who knock on doors (they need a signed warrant by a criminal court judge to enter a home or a school), to the importance of referring students and their families to a pro bono lawyer or immigration services for help figuring out their status.

Jessica Orozco Guttlein of the Hispanic Federation spoke about how to help students traumatized by the detention or deportation of their parents.

Attendees also learned how to create a safe and welcoming environment, how to develop school plans for handling immigration raids and how to engage more members to counter threats faced by students.

Jennifer Queenan, a teacher at Sunset Park HS in Brooklyn, said posters and other materials she received at the training session will help her better define a safe area at her school where immigrant students can come to talk.

UFT members wishing to set up a training session should reach out to Katherine Kurjakovic at

NY Teacher