We the People: A Leadership Position!

By Lt. Col. Ralph Gracia
Guest Columnist

Today immigration is a hot topic, but the history of the current furor goes back 50 years, to one of the most far-reaching laws ever enacted in the country: the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. A review of that law and its impact provides many lessons for today, notably that substantial change can be a very lengthy process and “reform” can have huge, unforeseen consequences. The consequences have been immense. The U.S. Census Bureau notes that the non-Hispanic white population in the U.S. declined from 85 percent in 1965 to 62.2 percent in 2014, and the forecast is for the percentage of non-Hispanic whites to fall to 43.6 percent in 2060. Hispanics will increase from 17.4 to 28.6 percent, the Census Bureau estimates.

I’m honored and proud to write about the Multicultural High School (MHS) and its impact in taking action to support the rights of their students and families. As concerns grow over upcoming policies regarding undocumented immigrants in the United States, MHS, a transitional bilingual high school for Spanish-speaking newcomers, has taken up the fight in their continued efforts to protect their students and families.

This year, in collaboration with Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, MHS partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Catholic Charities, and Fordham University’s School of Law to convene a “Know Your Rights” workshop for all families. They also offered professional development for their staff and members of the larger community at the Franklin K. Lane Educational Campus. The group held three legal clinics since the start of this year on immigration, where students and/or families from their school and the campus scheduled appointments to meet with paralegals and an attorney to discuss their concerns and, if warranted, take their case.

“It was great to participate as a think partner and devise a plan on how to execute these events, which have been successful thus far. Students and families felt safe and supported in sharing sensitive information with staff and experts in the field during these uncertain times,” said Peter Ng-A-Fook, the Assistant Principal at MHS.

“Staff members, with a deep-rooted interest in the welfare of our students and families, also voiced concerns and asked questions as to how they could provide additional supports and resources.”

Many people feel uneasy this year. MHS will continue to take action to protect the rights of their students and families. MHS will strive to keep all members of the school community well informed by hosting another workshop soon and providing professional development opportunities for the staff. For these meeting MHS will monitor and address current shifts in immigration policies. Additionally, MHS will hold two more immigration legal clinics for the campus community. It is great knowing public schools like MHS extend a leadership position, give support beyond academics, and offer glimmers of hope to families.

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