All children deserve to be free

February 21, 2019

In response to Trump’s family separation policy, a number of educators came together to form Teachers Against Child Detention. And on February 17, group hosted a Teach-In for Freedom in El Paso, Texas. Here, we reprint a solidarity statement by Black Lives Matter at School, first published at that group’s website.

THE TRUMP administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating migrant children from their families at the border is cruel and inhuman. The U.S. government has admitted to separating 2,700 children from their families and a recent Health and Human Services report indicates that there could even be thousands more.

This gross injustice has prompted the national Black Lives Matter at School coalition to stand in solidarity with the Teach-In for Freedom and their demands of the U.S. government for the immediate release of all immigrant children in U.S. government custody and to shut down all immigrant detention centers housing immigrant children. On February 17, hundreds of educators from all over the country will raise their voices against the racist detention of refugee and immigrant children at the U.S. border and the separation of children from their parents. We encourage all educators to join them on the border or teach lessons about the rights of immigrants and refugees in their own classrooms.

Educators protest the detention of immigrant children in El Paso, Texas
Educators protest the detention of immigrant children in El Paso, Texas (Teaching Tolerance | Twitter)

Educators will gather in the historic San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso, Texas, to teach lessons about the current impact and trauma of child detention as well as the history of immigration and child detention. We applaud the efforts of the state teachers of the year, spearheaded by Mandy Manning (the 2018 National Teacher of the Year), who have collaborated with other educators, their unions, faith-based organizations, and immigrant rights organizations to form Teachers Against Child Detention.

In addition, we believe their work in many ways overlaps with the struggles of the Black Lives Matter at School movement. Trump’s rhetoric of “zero tolerance” on the border mirrors the “zero tolerance discipline” policies in schools that has led to a spike in suspension and expulsion rates — disproportionately impacting Black and Brown students. Zero tolerance discipline, then, contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline, which fuels the racist system of mass incarceration. The explosion in the prison population, or what Michelle Alexander calls “the New Jim Crow,” rips apart African American families and separates Black children from their parents. In a June 2018 article entitled “Family Separation: It’s a Problem for U.S. Citizens Too,” the New York Times estimated that 250,000 American children have a single mother in jail with another 150,000 having a mother in prison. One in four Black children will have their father incarcerated before they turn 14. And it’s not just Black parents that are incarcerated and then separated from their children — Black children are also over-policed and jailed. Some 30,000 youth are imprisoned in juvenile jails across the country, and The Sentencing Project documents that “Black children are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than white children.”

The movement for immigrant rights and the Black Lives Matter at School movement are both strengthened when we work together in common cause to stop the unjust detention and incarceration of all Black and Brown youth. We urge all educators around the country to support these movements and stand in solidarity with Teachers Against Child Detention when they say: “WE BELIEVE. All children deserve to be in school. All children deserve to be free. We demand the release of our children.”

First published at Black Lives Matter at School.

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