Militarizing our schools leaves immigrant youth vulnerable

by Thomas Kennedy | March 15, 2018 7:00 am

After 17 children were shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is the answer to preventing gun violence in America arming teachers?

Across the country, we have seen rhetoric turn from enacting sensible gun reform and curtailing access to weaponry to instead increasing the militarization of our society, particularly our schools.

After meeting with survivors of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas and hearing their stories, Donald Trump proposed an NRA favorite, arming teachers. Specifically, 20 percent of teachers in America. This insane idea was picked up by the Florida Legislature, and now Republican lawmakers in the state are working towards making it a reality.

Just a few days ago, the Florida Senate rejected a proposal to ban assault weapons while voting for a measure to put guns in the hands of school teachers. The full bill has now been approved by the Florida legislature.

Militarizing our schools will not keep us safe. There was not one but four armed deputies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and when the shooting started, they stayed outside instead of confronting the shooter.

While putting armed police officers in schools does not seem to deter school shootings, they do make the school to prison pipeline worse. Increased arrests for minor transgressions that should be handled through in-school disciplinary actions have led to the criminalization of predominantly black and brown students.

With the national conversation focused on the problem of gun violence in this country, the crisis that Trump created when he needlessly ended DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an Obama-era program that shielded qualifying young immigrants from deportation, has largely taken a backseat in the public consciousness.

This is unfortunate because immigrant youth have and will be directly impacted by increased policing and militarization of schools. Nearly 17,000 young people have already lost their DACA protections and every day that Congress fails to act, another 122 DACA recipients lose their status. By March 5, 2018, about 23,000 children who are turning 15 would be eligible to apply for DACA, but instead they will remain vulnerable to deportation.

Despite a preliminary injunction issued by a federal district court ordering DHS to accept DACA renewals, people will only regain protection under DACA when they turn in their paperwork and filing fee, apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and their applications are adjudicated. There is no reason to believe that the current anti-immigrant administration will expedite the renewal applications.

This is the current logic displayed by the Trump administration on these issues. To deal with the problem of mass shootings in our schools, we need to put more weapons in our schools, so we can have more shootouts in our schools. On DACA, Trump has repeatedly said that he wants a solution for the Dreamers that allows them to stay in this country and that its up to lawmakers in Congress to pass with legislation. Yet when presented with three bipartisan deals, he rejected all of them. Meanwhile he is increasing police presence in schools, which leaves immigrant youth vulnerable to possible detention and deportation.

Trump could end this problem with the stroke of a pen, by reintroducing the DACA program and shielding these young immigrants from deportation. Unfortunately, the militarization of schools and the deportation machine are inextricably linked to perpetuate white supremacy in this country and the dehumanization of black and brown people.


Thomas Kennedy

Thomas Kennedy

Born in Argentina, Thomas Kennedy came to the United States with his parents at the age of ten, first living in New Jersey before settling down in Miami. After living as an undocumented immigrant for over a decade and seeing the daily struggles his parents overcame in their daily lives in order to have a better life, Thomas became involved in student activism and immigration reform advocacy. He graduated with an International Relations major from Florida International University and works with the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

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