After An Immigration Raid In Texas, Educators Try To Help Children Cope With Trauma | KERA News

After An Immigration Raid In Texas, Educators Try To Help Children Cope With Trauma

Apr 2, 2019

In the small town of Honey Grove, Texas, several families face an uncertain future after an immigration raid in August.

Experts say that for children whose parents are detained or deported, the trauma can last a long time.

David Gamez's dad and uncle were among the nearly 160 people detained by immigration enforcement agents at Load Trail, a factory in the Northeast Texas that makes trailers for vehicles.

The Honey Grove High School senior says he can't stop thinking about what could happen to them.

"You just kind of worry about like, what's going to happen, how they're going to be treated and what the outcome of the situation is going to be," Gamez said.

He worries when he's at home — and when he's in the classroom.

"It kind of affects, like, the way you go to school. You don't think," Gamez said. "You're not thinking at your full capability because … you're just worrying about other things instead of worrying [about] what you're supposed to be worrying about at school, which is education."

» RELATEDHow An Immigration Raid Near A Small Texas Town Touched A Whole School District

Where the trauma comes from

This isn't unusual for students whose family members are undocumented, according to Luis Zayas, dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. He authored the book, "Forgotten Citizens: Deportation, Children, and the Making of American Exiles and Orphans."

"These children are always living in a state of vigilance," Zayas said. "They're always concerned about the possibility that one day their parent might be detained and deported."

Children of undocumented parents worry about drawing attention to themselves or their moms and dads, Zayas said. They may even avoid participating in certain activities.

"We see sometimes that they know their parents schedule so much, they will know their parents' arrival time after work," Zayas said. "When the parent is late, 10 to 15 minutes, the child becomes very anxious about 'Is this the day that my parent gets detained?'"

So when there's an immigration raid like the one at Load Trail, it's a child's biggest fear come true.

Ways to offer support

It's important for students to have not just the support of family, but support from friends and teachers, too. Because, Zayas said, people at school know the students well.

» RELATEDAfter An Immigration Raid, A Church Provides Comfort And Help For Families In Paris, Texas

"Information, comfort and hope are what we can give children at a time like this," he said. "Not sugarcoating it, but really telling them the truth while being able to hold them emotionally during a time that's very traumatic for children."

After the raid, the Honey Grove ISD brought in counselors to talk with students. They let students call their moms, who were afraid of leaving their homes.

Janeth Uribe is the secretary at Honey Grove High School. She said it was hard pretending like nothing happened the day after the raid.

"But if you don't try to make it a normal day, then your kids are already sad enough that you have to set an example for them," Uribe said. "You can keep going even though it's hard."

Teachers also helped students by writing letters on their behalf. The letters were for immigration judges presiding over the cases of the students' family members.

Abigail Rubio (left) has had a difficult time since the immigration raid in which her father was detained. But she says her friend and classmate, Leslie Lopez (right), has helped. Leslie says she prays for Abigail.
Credit Stella Chávez / KERA News

Sixteen-year-old Abigail Rubio, whose dad worked at Load Trail, got one of those letters.

The letters talked about how "my siblings and I are at school and [were] talking to the judge, saying how my dad shows interest in our education and interest in our lives," she said.

Abigail's aunt, Sandra Rubio, teaches English as a second language and students with dyslexia in Honey Grove ISD. She has a nephew, two brothers-in-law and an uncle who were detained.

So she's not only concerned about her students, but about her own family members, too. That's given her a deeper understanding of what students are going through, and that's helped her bond with them.

"I've always told them, 'Anything you guys need, get a hold of anyone,'" Rubio said. "It doesn't have to me. Just tell us what you guys need.'"

In these difficult times, these students and families say they welcome that support.