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News | Education | local | Class Of 2025: Follow Students From 1st Grade To Graduation

'I Feel Nervous': When School Becomes A Sanctuary


A girl raises her hand during class at Earl Boyles Elementary in Portland, March 31, 2016.

A girl raises her hand during class at Earl Boyles Elementary in Portland, March 31, 2016.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

“I feel nervous,” said one Latino boy in OPB’s “Class of 2025.” “Because they may take my mom away.”

Latino boys and girls are worried about what could happen to their families in the wake of tough rhetoric about illegal immigration from federal authorities. OPB is not using these children’s names because some members of their families are undocumented. 

OPB’s “Class of 2025” is tracking 27 students from kindergarten through high school to look at factors, both positive and negative, that may affect whether they graduate or not. Risks to students’ families can affect their education — or disrupt it entirely. 

Latino children say they are feeling singled out and bullied, based on their ethnicity.

“They talked about at school and said things like ‘Donald Trump is gonna put all the Mexicans in Mexico where they all supposed to be.’ And I started feeling scared and kind of sad,” said one Latina in the Class of 2025, who was born in the U.S.

At home, many families are afraid. Some parents coach their children not to open the door if there’s an unfamiliar knock.

School boards have debated resolutions to reassure undocumented students, often called “sanctuary” statements.

“We can’t educate them if they’re scared out of their wits that somebody’s going to come and get them,” said Christine Larsen, a member of the David Douglas School Board, the district where many “Class of 2025” students go to school.

At the same time, school board members wonder if it’s their place — or if it might violate the Constitution — to resist policies from the federal government. And federal officials are making a point of pushing Oregon leaders to do more to help battle illegal immigration.

This episode of the “Class of 2025: podcast looks at the national debate over immigration and how it applies to public schools, and children caught in the middle.

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