Photo by Sabrina Machtay

Immigration Restrictions Impact Local Families

October 4, 2018

Sudden changes in immigration policy implemented earlier this year by the Trump administration have had major repercussions for many immigrants living in the US, as well as for their families.

In addition to the much-publicized Zero Tolerance Policy separating families at the Mexican border, the Trump administration has made it more difficult to obtain visas for highly-skilled workers and the Supreme Court upheld the President’s travel ban on a group of majority-Muslim countries.

Beachwood students and their families have been affected.

ESL teacher Bridget Keil explained in an email that she knew of families who applied to extend their work visas in the US but were denied an extension.

She added that the visa application process now requests more evidence than before.

“This increased hassle in the application process could lead to a decrease in the number of families applying,” she wrote. “Also, families might be unable to extend their visas which would make it difficult to transition to a Green Card.”

Guidance counselor Jason Downey explained how the changing application process affected at least one parent in the community.

“[There was] a parent…on a teaching visa teaching at a local university, and I think there [were] some extra steps that she had to go through in order to remain in the country to continue teaching,” he said.

“[P]rior to the new changes it was…up to the university if they wanted to keep the staff member,” he added. “[But the new requirements] forced them to redo it every year…”

“But that would impact a student because then…if the parent would have to leave, then the student would have to leave also if they’re not from the country,” he added.

This increased hassle in the application process could lead to a decrease in the number of families applying. Also, families might be unable to extend their visas which would make it difficult to transition to a Green Card.”

— English as a second language teacher Bridget Keil

Still, the district’s Director of Pupil Services Lauren Broderick explained that the number of immigrant students in Beachwood has actually increased in recent years. Since August, forty-six new students whose primary language is not English enrolled at BHS.

“…[T]he numbers of families who are registering from outside of our country who are completing the language survey and [whose] children are eligible for services just keeps increasing, so we haven’t seen a decrease in enrollment,” Broderick explained.

The Cleveland Clinic, where many Beachwood students have parents employed, was directly impacted by President Trump’s Executive Order issued in early 2017, which restricted people from majority-Muslim countries from entering and re-entering the US.

One Cleveland Clinic employee, Dr. Suha Abushamma, was denied entrance into the US, and her work visa was cancelled. She was able to return after Federal Judge Ann Donelly blocked part of the executive order.

“There were two more resident physicians who were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at JFK airport,” Cleveland Clinic’s Executive Director of Corporate Communication Eileen Sheil wrote in an email. “However, they are both permanent residents and were released after clarification with regard to permanent residents and the Executive Order was issued.”

[T]he numbers of families who are registering from outside of our country who are completing the language survey and [whose] children are eligible for services just keeps increasing, so we haven’t seen a decrease in enrollment.”

— Director of Pupil Services Lauren Broderick

Sheil added that the policies have caused delays for some physicians to begin or return to work on time.

If an undocumented immigrant were to enroll in school, the Beachwood City Schools would serve that student.

Student enrollment eligibility as determined by the federal Title III policy, which holds states accountable for ESL students,  is reported according to Broderick. However, there is no requirement in Beachwood to report undocumented students.

“If the student is undocumented and is unable to, for example, provide a birth certificate, we accept that, so… we’re not permitted to restrict the student from being educated,” she said.

Similarly, Sheil explained that Cleveland Clinic does not require a patient’s citizenship to be checked before receiving care.

“As a hospital, we don’t check someone’s citizenship or status. We treat all cases/people who come to us for emergency care.”

Many students oppose the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

Junior Sabrina Machtay doesn’t think the immigration policies have changed the environment in Beachwood.

As a hospital, we don’t check someone’s citizenship or status. We treat all cases/people who come to us for emergency care.”

— Cleveland Clinic Director of Corporate Communication Eileen Sheil

“I think that Beachwood is a very accepting place,” she said. “…If there was someone who was here illegally, [Beachwood] would try their best to keep them comfortable and do their best to try and help them.”

Broderick identified a potential resource for students who are being impacted by the policies.

“…[T]here is a state resource center called the Lau [Resource] Center…[for] support in…that federal legislation, and to ensure that students have equal access to school opportunities regardless of their status,” she said.

“…I just don’t think that it was thought through very respectfully of some of the families who are in transition,” Downey said. “It’s tough because I know a lot of the motives are for trying to protect the United States from different threats, but…from my side I see families who come here for education and [to] have successes.”

Broderick encourages students to come forward with their concerns.

“…[W]e do have an Anti-Discrimination Policy in the district,” she said. “I’m the complaint officer for the district, so I would absolutely want students to know… that they should come forward and make us aware of anything that appears discriminatory or that has the potential to impact a student negatively.”

Sheil added that students can go to www.uscis.gov for immigration law information.

Downey encourages students who are being affected or having difficulties to talk with their guidance counselors.

“We can’t change anything as far as immigration goes, but… we’re here for [students], and [we can help] them find the right resources… whether it’s a Congresswoman or Congressman or someone at the State Department,” he said.

We highlight the diversity that we have in our school district.”

— Director of Pupil Services Lauren Broderick

“I’m sure there are situations where we have kids here or at least in the area that their families are separated right now,” he added. “…that’s very traumatic, that’s terrible, so just being a comfort for them as counselors and…trying to maybe connect them to resources…[can] help them in the long run.”

“There are physicians and scientists from over 100 different countries working at Cleveland Clinic [who] make our environment richer on many levels – culturally, scientifically and medically – we are a better place for patients and the community because of them,” Sheil wrote.

“…[W]e highlight the diversity that we have in our school district,” Broderick said. “We’re proud of the fact that we are not 100% in any one demographic…we’re proud of the fact that we support the learning of all students.”

“…[A]s far as the immigration policies are concerned, I believe the policy should be open and inclusive, and not exclusive,” she added.


Advice for International Families from Eileen Sheil of the Cleveland Clinic

  • Remember that every immigration case is unique to a specific individual’s circumstances; what applies to one person may not apply to anyone else.
  • Knowledge is power. Read the newspaper. Read about immigrants and immigration history – you will learn so much about the development of immigration law and policy – it will help you understand what is happening now and why.
  • Ask your parents questions if you are concerned. If they do not know they will find out for you. When they have meetings with their immigration attorney, ask if you can go along and listen or give them a list of your questions.
  • Always remember that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants and laws. Our laws and constitution were written with the purpose of protecting all people living in the U.S. regardless of race, creed, ethnicity or immigration status.
  • While the news may be worrying and the reports sound ominous, keep hope and confidence in the U.S. constitution and our system of government. There are many, many people who are looking out for the best interests of all immigrants and international visitors to our country.
  • Be proud of your parents. Appreciate the sacrifices they made to come to another country thousands of miles away from all that they hold dear. 

Other Resources:

Lau Resource Center

Title III Policy (federal policy)

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services

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