If I have learned one thing since I left the university and started working six months ago, it is that with every policy decision, executive order, court ruling, and presidential call for a beautiful wall there are individual people who both are affected by and have to carry out the policy. Normally, I use the simple, but forgotten reality that institutions can do anything to argue for conservative policies, but today my critique is leveled at fellow conservatives looking for fast action change in an era of Trump.
I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to recent immigrant youth in an urban school district. While I have no Syrian refugees in my classes, I teach 19 Somali refugees, 7 Hmong refugees, and a myriad of recent Latino immigrants. Amid all of the political vitriol surrounding the immigration issue, my classroom bears the burden.
For example, it is over a year now that Donald Trump has been conducting his rallies to a chorus of ‘build a wall.’ He heckled about all the bad guys he would deport, the immigration he would shut down, but no one believed he would get elected.
However, he did and, first hand, I can tell you recent immigrants were terrified. To complicate things, upon taking office, he left in place a law that allows legalized citizens to bring their children in as immigrants with legal status. Thus, terrified by his promises and with that law still in place, families from Mexico and Honduras are rushing their children to the US before a wall goes up—leaving my school overwhelmed.
My classroom has grown from 14 to 27 students since December—the recommended level for an ESL class is between 8-12 kids. A veteran teacher in our school has gone home early two times now because the stress of the job has left her in a state of severe depression. Our counselors and social workers are incapable of even hoping to meet with every student. We have fights in my school almost daily. In 6 months of teaching, I have broken up three fights, two of which were between immigrants from different cultures.
This situation is not a result of broken home life or cultural depravity. Normally, an increase in students would come with thoughtful planning, more funding, restructured schools, and more staff. However, Donald Trump has thrown around vitriolic rhetoric and fast action executive orders that caused a rapid change to which the school’s system could not adapt to fast enough.
Some would say that is the school’s fault and due to incompetent teachers and principals. In my own class, though, it takes nothing but time and patience to help a kid who has never been to school assimilate to American education. It is nearly impossible to accomplish that goal when I receive three new students in the course of the same week.
Trump’s bellicose demeanor makes for good headlines and populist movements, but there is a reason for generally accepted, although admittedly drab and slow means of political action. Delayed political actions results in a policy that better considers every possibility and every individual before it is put in place. It keeps the country from violently jostling left and right with each new administration. It keeps my classroom from bursting, because either that that was there naturalization law that is still there, the frightful rhetoric would have been less, or educational policy would have changed to match the immigration laws.
Thankfully, Trump seems to have developed an understanding of this reality. His most recent speech to Congress showed a cross between a traditional politician and populist vanguard. He still called for nationalism, decreased immigration, a powerful military—a big stick, but he did so while speaking softly.
My classroom thanks him for the change.