This week, local parents are using the schoolyard to support for the scores of immigrant families at two Ditmas Park elementary schools, following a slew of executive orders this week banning refugees from entering the U.S.
P.S. 217 on Newkirk Avenue began their ‘week of unity’ yesterday morning at 7:30am, after a phone call roused at least a dozen parents the night before. The elementary school has a large immigrant population, with about 32 languages spoken in its halls.
And the parent-led movement appears to be snowballing. For the second morning in a row, the line of protesters wrapped around P.S. 217, sparking another rally of more than 40 parents at P.S 139 on Rugby Road.
“There are many ways for people to make a difference and a lot of opportunities for local activism,” said P.S. 139 parent Laurie Davidson, inspired to take action after seeing photos from the P.S. 217 rally on Monday.
“Even if you can’t go to larger events you can create your own,” she said.
For many families, the outpouring of support sparked tears of gratitude, reported parents at both rallies.
“People were saying ‘thank you’, clapping, and joining in,” said Regina Rodriguez, a P.S. 217 parent and immigrant from Mexico. “I don’t have any family here, so I know how hard it is to be alone. But to see the support from the other parents, it’s amazing,” she said.
The morning after Trump’s victory, Rodriguez faced harassment when a group of teenagers shouted “Trump! Trump! Send them back!” as she walked onto a city bus.
For the first time since she came to New York City 15 years ago, Rodriguez felt terrified. “They know that we are immigrants. I didn’t know how to react because nobody said anything,” she told BKLYNER.
Rodriguez has 10-year-old twins who were born in New York and attend P.S. 217, a school the entire family loves. “My husband and I want to protect them. In our country, there are kidnappings and other bad things, we don’t want to go back, we are scared for our kids,” she said.
“When I feel upset, I hold my kids,” Rodriguez said, reliving stories she’s heard from other Latino parents who’s kids have been taunted at middle schools. “Their kids say, ‘Mom, don’t go outside. I want to see you when I get back from school. I don’t want you to be taken away.’
“That breaks my heart,” she said, fighting back tears.
P.S. 139 is planning another support rally on Friday, February 3 at 7:45am — this time with more teachers and resources for immigrants, like copies of the support letter from the DOE printed in multiple languages.
“We want people to know: Even if we don’t have money, we have rights. We are humans and immigrants,” said Rodriguez.
“I feel confident that New York can still be a sanctuary city where the mayor says that police can’t ask about immigrant status. I hope, for long enough,” she said.
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