By Michael Arrieta-Walden
The mother of two listened intently as the speaker described what documents parents should prepare in case an immigration action separated them from their children.
The potential nightmare for any parent was a real possibility for this mom.
She was among about 75 parents at an event put on by our school to provide families with information and resources. While we wanted to reduce fears for families with information, that was unrealistic.
For the mother of two, fear resurfaces daily, each time her husband drives to and from work. He has no legal documents, so she worries that in today’s climate a traffic stop could lead to deportation. Her fears are common among immigrant families.
I’ve asked her how she copes with that fear; it’s her belief in family that carries her. As long as the family is together, she says, they will be fine – no matter where they are.
But I think of what a huge loss it would be for my school community and our nation if families like hers are sent away.
Like many others, she and her husband came seeking a better life for their children. They are among the most dedicated parents I’ve worked with in eight years of teaching.
Although she works many hours cleaning people’s houses, she and her husband regularly volunteer at school. With their limited wages, they support their children with after-school activities.
They also are diligent about tracking the kids’ progress in school and holding them accountable for their homework. They insist they behave. And they always volunteer for community service projects and events at school.
These parents are valuable, contributing members of our school community. Their children will be productive adults in the future. Their deportation would be a loss for all of us.
But their story is not unusual. Many of our families at Metzger Elementary School in Tigard give more than they take from the community. They are building our future.
You also see it throughout our school district. We rely on the students of Tigard High School’s MEChA and Intercambio programs to help with school nights and other projects. Those students are amazing and committed to community service. They are eager to help others. I am excited to see how much they will contribute after gaining a college education.
Many come from families who wanted to make a better life in America, but what they also are doing is making a better life for all of us in America.
What I marvel at is how much our families have endured to start anew here. I don’t think I would have the courage to do that.
Perhaps that is why, when I listened to the speakers describe how you should designate someone to oversee your children, I felt sick to my stomach. But the mother of two was a sea of calm.
“Estaremos bien,” she said. We will be all right.
Photographs: Michael Arrieta-Walden
Michael Arrieta-Walden teaches fifth grade and has been teaching for seven years. Before teaching, he was a journalist for almost 30 years. He and his wife, Fran, live in Portland and have one daughter Maya, who lives in Washington, D.C.
From the author: The primary group that helped immigrants at our school is the Latino Network. If you would like to learn more about the group, donate or volunteer, you can go to their web site at http://www.latnet.org/
Editor’s note: I’ve known Mike since I was a young reporter at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. He was an even younger reporter — a college intern at the time — and all of us could see he had the passion, tenacity and empathy to become a first-rate journalist. Those same traits were on display when he later became a newsroom editor in Albuquerque, N.M.; Olympia, Wash.; and Portland, Ore. — and they are evident now in the classroom.
Tomorrow: Cynthia Carmina Gomez, Donde come uno, comen dos. Two can eat from the same dish