To the students who missed school on the Day without Immigrants Protest

Yesterday, a student came up to me and asked, “Are you going to be here tomorrow?”

I didn’t know why she was asking.  She explained today’s protest; I hadn’t heard about it.  I told her I would be here because there are few Latino English teachers in schools.  This is where I need to be.  I told her she should do what’s best for her.

She said, “Maybe I’ll be here.”  Then she thought, “Oh, but you have an assignment due tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll be absent.”

We both laughed out loud.

If you missed school to attend a Day without Immigrants Protest today, you did something meaningful.

If you missed school and stayed at home comfortably, if you spent the day on your phone or computer, if you partied in your basement or someone else’s, you acted against today’s protest and you proved skeptics’ views that immigrants do not matter.

A protest is supposed to be inconvenient for the person or group or system being criticized.  Your actions today should have made government forces and conservatives who believe that immigrants don’t matter uncomfortable.  YOU should have been uncomfortable challenging yourself to be visible, to be heard, to be noticeable.

Instead, you made yourself invisible—that’s exactly what everyone who hates immigrants wanted you to be.

And if your parents allowed you to stay home and be comfortable—they are part of the problem that holds our immigrant communities back.

According to a recent study, 5.4 million Latino children are born into poverty.

According to another study, our chances of escaping poverty increase if we finish high school and pursue a college degree.  Still, only 11% of low-income, first-generation students complete bachelor’s degree programs.  We need more Latinx students in schools and colleges.

If you don’t want to go to college and want to work in the trades, you face another struggle because most unions require a high school diploma to join.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately only 9% of trade union members are Hispanic.  We’re not highly visible there either.

And if you think you’ll work in non-union labor like people you know, you’re going to earn about $12,000 less every year you work.

About half of my students missed school today.  I doubt that many of them attended the protest.

The student who asked me if I would be here today showed up to school with her assignment.  You should have been in school, too.

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