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Fighting to “Keep Families Together”

“Children who witness a parent’s arrest, particularly in a home setting, are more likely to suffer from mental health and behavioral problems,” said national AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Raids also put an unnecessary strain on communities, schools, child care providers, health centers, faith-based institutions and other organizations that serve immigrant families,” she added. 
Working together with social justice immigrants’ rights advocates United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center and First Focus, AFT has produced a deportation defense guide for union members. The goal is to empower educators, support staff and healthcare professionals with tools and resources to help prepare their students and patients for an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency raid.
Click here to access the “Know Your Rights” document online.
Our national union two years ago teamed up with allies to develop a handbook for educators and support staff to help them assist students living in a climate of fear. PreK-12 and higher education professionals have a vital role to play in ending the detention and deportation of immigrant youth and their families. 
Click here for our previous report on our advocacy for undocumented, unaccompanied and refugee students.
An example of that advocacy has been the ongoing support for the mother of a union member’s former student who last summer found herself in ICE’s crosshairs. Labor and civil rights activists helped create enough public pressure to win a temporary delay of her deportation order. When that deferral expired last month, they again mobilized to defend the family. 
“The fight for public schools goes hand in hand with a fight for the public,” said Eric Maroney (above, speaking in photo), a member of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Federation of Technical College Teachers. “This includes our immigrant family. We say solidaridad sin fronteras — solidarity without borders — because unity is not only built in anticipation of a contract fight. It is a constant element of being an educator and a union member,” added Maroney, a developmental English instructor at Gateway Community College in New Haven.
Maroney in mid July delivered those remarks at a rally in support of Salma Sikander’s family outside the federal courthouse in Hartford. He was joined by hundreds of fellow activists in AFT Connecticut’s social justice committee, Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA) and Indivisible Connecticut. 
An immigration judge has further postponed Sikander’s deportation, no doubt in response to the collective call to “keep families together.”
Click here for our previous report on efforts to support the family of Maroney’s former student.
Four weeks after attending the Hartford courthouse rally, AFT Connecticut Vice President John Brady, RN, joined health professionals and educators from five states at the U.S. southern border. Our national union organized the delegation’s visit in order to perform wellness checks and report-back on the condition of refugee children detained in an ICE facility outside McAllen. 
The effort was immediately met with threats and intimidation by federal agents.
“We were a group of teachers and nurses, who had gone through the proper channels, not once, but twice,” Brady said after returning to Connecticut. “We never posed a threat; never even approached the building. When asked to move, we did, and we were threatened with arrest.”
Click here to watch highlights of the visit to the facility and a local community relief center.
“These families risk their lives not because they want to; they do so because they must,” added Brady, who worked as an emergency department nurse at Backus Hospital in Norwich. “They are fleeing horrible, dangerous conditions; something all of us would do.” 
Click here for Brady’s report on the visit to the border at his blog.

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