Oregon Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
The Portland ESL Network is calling out for videos with their 1-Minute Tip Challenge. Create a one-minute video with a quick ESL teaching tip. These videos will be featured on the ESL Network YouTube channel and their Facebook page.
See their YouTube channel for examples. Also subscribe to their channel to receive updates about new videos. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC07ICj_72wCrsQ0mSpQ0bRg
To add your tip, use wetransfer.com to send your video to PortlandESLnetwork@gmail.com. Please do not directly email the video because the video files will be too large for their email account.
For more information: email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to https://portlandesl.wixsite.com/wixsite/post/1-minute-teaching-tip-challenge
Here are some video examples. We hope you have fun with this challenge.
This post written and submitted by Eric Dodson, Luciana Diniz, Nanci Leiton
Are you teaching low-to-mid intermediate level communication skills classes? Green Tea Intermediate English Communication OER may help with the need for materials that meet our students' needs.
This OER is still under development, but we wanted to share it out because of the extraordinary circumstances involved in planning and holding classes these days.
This OER includes many materials that have been adapted for remote teaching, including:
The google doc (also linked above) has the full list of resources, which are shared with a Creative Commons license, meaning that they are ready for you to adopt, adapt, or otherwise use, as long as you keep a "from Green Tea Intermediate English Communication" attribution.
You can bookmark the google doc, or link to our Pressbook site, which may be a more convenient package to link to, if you need to embed things in an LMS.
The Gregarious Green Tea Team
Portland Community College
The RISE Program: Addressing the social emotional impact on students that have experienced interrupted formal education (SIFE)
Written and submitted by Patrick Ahern
We had finished reviewing the simple present verb tense and some common adverbs of frequency, and it was time to begin our daily RISE meeting. I stood in a circle with smiling high school students from all over the world. Negin Naraghi, the RISE facilitator and director, chose a student to be the leader and we invited the student waiting in the hall back into the room. The leader began a disco movement that everybody in the circle mimicked. The student that had been waiting in the hallway, Rich (not his real name), stood in the middle of the circle and whipped his head around trying to locate the leader. All of the sudden, we simultaneously started running in place. Baffled, Rich spun around to see if he could catch the leader, the one who clandestinely initiated running in place. We were all laughing and collectively enjoying ourselves as we followed the leader through multiple motions or movements. By the time Rich spotted the leader, we had gone through several different motions and probably looked like the most off kilter, diverse dance group you will ever see! What was happening and what happened to the English lessons?
What is RISE?
As part of my practicum experience on my way to earning my Masters in TESOL, I had decided to volunteer and teach at David Douglas High School in Portland, Oregon during their summer school program. David Douglas works in conjunction with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) to serve a diverse community of immigrants and refugees in the high school. Under the larger umbrella of IRCO, RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Student Empowerment) is unique because it provides a space for refugee and immigrant students to access a caring support system on site at the high school. While there are several organizations across the country that provide services for immigrant and refugee families, RISE is especially impactful. When students attend RISE, they not only gain access to tutoring but also conversation practice and a community that links students together in an uncommon bond among such a diverse group.
RISE began small, serving only level one and level two EL students with academic support. At that time, its primary focus was providing in-class support and after school tutoring twice per week. It was operating with funds provided by a two-year grant, and it looked like it might not survive beyond those two years. Afterall, the school was already providing extra support and tutoring through the educational assistants, and there did not seem to be a great need for additional support. It was then that Naraghi came on board. Based on her own investigation from her dissertation on what immigrant and refugee students found helpful as they transitioned to life in an American high school, she slowly started making changes. She found that when after school tutoring had been provided in the past with the sole purpose to help with homework or to deliver additional language lessons, it had garnered little success. Attendance was inconsistent and the numbers were not high enough to sustain RISE. It was not until Naraghi began to shift the focus of RISE from a strict tutoring model to a model that addressed the social emotional needs of the students along with their academic needs. She explained that before they got to anything academic, they focused on relationship building, routine building, and community. Once the program had made this shift, attendance began to grow and became more consistent. The school district saw the benefit of solidifying a relationship with RISE to continue serving the immigrant and refugee population with a more holistic approach.
Students at RISE that have experienced interrupted formal education (SIFE) or limited and interrupted formal education (SLIFE) not only have to overcome obstacles of a new country, but they also find themselves starting at the beginning or near the beginning of their educational journey. As preservice teachers or grad students like myself were discussing how to teach vocabulary and grammar, the social emotional well-being of the students often was overlooked. How can we educate and prepare SIFE students when their head is likely spinning due to a life altering transition to formal education in the United States? We did not often discuss how to build community and relationships with our students that crossed cultural and linguistic boundaries. Many of the vocabulary and grammar lessons might very well be lost on those students that have nothing that they can connect to the lesson from their experience in their native country. The premise of RISE is to begin with what the students bring with them to the United States and then to learn with them how they can be successful in high school. This starts with relationship, routine, and community.
Practical Application for Teachers
Relationship: Building relationships with students takes time and investment in the students. EL teachers have the unique opportunity to build these relationships with SIFE students that regular education teachers might not. RISE tutors and facilitators create bonds with students by engaging the students in meaningful, enjoyable conversation practice and games. The conversation and games are frequently centered around the students’ lives, and they are purposeful in the sense that they are designed to create student to student connections along with student to teacher connections.
EL teachers can create a similar classroom environment that implements meaningful instruction that connects to the students’ experiences through structured conversation and games. A simple competition that asks students to remember and express the likes and dislikes of their peers can be a motivating way for students to use their language skills, have fun, and build relationships with their peers and teachers.
Family engagement is another piece that can be important to building relationships with SIFE students. The students and their families are likely to have experienced trauma throughout their lives. It is important to have the resources or staff available to communicate with families in a variety of languages to make sure the families can get the help they need in a safe environment. Parents and caretakers can sometimes share background information that enables teachers and school staff to have a better understanding of what the students need. This understanding also helps create a deeper connection to the students and fosters the social emotional well-being of the students.
Routine: Life for SIFE students can be unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. When they enter the doors to the school building every day, they begin to become accustomed to the stability that comes with a predictable routine. Creating predictable routines provides a sense of calm and security that is essential to meeting the social emotional needs of SIFE students. When students enter RISE, they are expected to participate in the conversation practice or game for the first ten to twenty minutes before beginning tutoring. There are no exceptions. Providing this routine builds structure and predictability that helps to keep students coming back to RISE.
In the ESL classroom, this can be done with academic routines as well as conversational and relationship building routines. Starting every class with a simple greeting or check in is a simple way to begin every class. It is during this time that teachers have the opportunity to engage students in authentic conversations, and it creates a routine that will facilitate a safe space for interaction to occur. In addition to daily routines, establishing a weekly routine that students can look forward to is a helpful motivating factor. Playing language games or incorporating art at the end of the week is an especially effective strategy to engaging students.
Community: SIFE students arrive in the United States without much of a sense of belonging. The classroom community during the school day can be hard to connect with at first, and it is helpful to provide a space where immigrant and refugee students can draw on one another’s shared experiences. Even if it is only the shared experience of learning English as a second language, students can find support in this commonality. At RISE, students have the opportunity to be part of a community that becomes a large part of their high school experience. Not only students but also educators and volunteer tutors quickly realize that the RISE community is special. Both Meg Dale and Stephanie Ramella began volunteering as tutors at RISE only to become program coordinators. ESL teachers and school administration have also contributed to the prosperity of the RISE community and are an integral part of its sustainability. Furthermore, the values and beliefs that are the foundation of RISE have followed me throughout my teaching practice and inspired me to strive to create community in my own classroom.
Creating a community in the ESL classroom will take time and leadership to build trust between teachers and peers. Teachers and facilitators should set clear expectations and norms that establish a community built on respect. Each individual needs to know that they are safe to make mistakes and that they will be supported while they are in the classroom. Students need to know how to operate respectfully with appropriate academic discourse. Language on how to clarify, ask questions, build on others’ ideas, and disagree/agree should be explicitly taught to not only build language capacity but also to create a community that respects the beliefs and ideas of others. Teachers should model this and guide students toward appropriate academic discourse, so it becomes part of the classroom culture. Finally, inviting volunteers and/or educational assistants to be part of the community and take part in the academic discourse sets a positive example for the students. I believe that the education of any one student is not the responsibility of the teacher alone but of the entire community made up of the individual students, teachers, peers, and volunteers.
Relationship building, routine, and community are the backbone of RISE and a crucial part of ESL programs that serve the SIFE population. Although it is undoubtedly necessary for ESL teachers to be passionate and knowledgeable about language and language teaching, without meeting the students’ social emotional needs we are missing the mark. SIFE students have found a community in RISE that has empowered them with a sense of agency that they bring with them to face the everyday challenges inside and outside of the classroom. My experience at RISE and David Douglas High School has inspired me to incorporate and attend to the aspects that support social emotional wellness of especially SIFE students but also all students that I work with.
First, I would like to thank RISE and especially Jen Healey, ESL teacher at David Douglas High School, for allowing me to take part in their 2016 summer program. Jen helped me to see the value of both strong ESL teaching and community building. It takes a village. My experience working with the students, teaching lessons and participating in conversation club is never far from my heart and mind. Also, a big thank you to Meg Dale, Negin Naraghi, and Stephanie Ramella for allowing me to interview them through Zoom and sharing a video and wonderful pictures of the RISE community. Finally, I would like to thank Greer Mancuso and the Collaborative Action Research (CAR) team that helped gather research and share experiences of working with SIFE students. Visit the links below to find out more information, and if you are interested in volunteering or learning more about RISE or IRCO click here.
RISE video made by the students and staff at RISE
SLIFE/SIFE resources put together by Greer Mancuso and the CAR team
ORTESOL stands with Black lives and the Black Lives Matter movement. We acknowledge the protests that are happening across the country and around the world in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, in addition to the many police killings of Black community members that have come before. We are putting forth a renewed call to action against the racism and anti-Blackness that has rooted itself across our societal systems, particularly our system of education--pre-K through higher ed.
As TESOL and EL educators, we acknowledge our responsibility and ability to the following actions:
to meet the demands of this moment
to educate ourselves more deeply on racism in education and its effects on our students and teachers
to recognize the intersectionality of race, language acquisition, and English language education
to connect with other education professionals in clarifying our organizational attitudes and best practices
to advocate on administrative and governmental levels for our professions, our students and their families, and our communities.
Even as the school year comes to a close, we must maintain a growth mindset about becoming fervently anti-racist in order to adequately support our BIPOC students and teachers to begin to reform our educational systems. For many of us, this is a renewed commitment. Perhaps now we are taking the opportunity to move beyond one thematic unit or lesson and instead integrating social justice as a daily and fully comprehensive foundation of our teaching practices in order to eradicate inequities and abuses that exist throughout our communities and our classrooms. We must remember and acknowledge that language development and racial justice cannot be separated.
With this, we move forward and activate our privilege, declaring that ORTESOL is committed to anti-racist education and advocacy.
We encourage action over words, and have included five to consider:
LISTEN & FOLLOW. Now is the time to listen to Black voices and amplify their messages. Follow #BlackintheIvory on social media to hear about Black experiences in academia or The Conscious Kid to learn about “parenting and education through a Critical Race lens.” Read or listen to leaders Tamika Mallory (activist), Patrisse Cullors (co-founder Black Lives Matter), Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II (co-chair Poor People’s Campaign), Rodney Robinson (2019 National Teacher of the Year), Dena Simmons (Educator).
READ, LISTEN, & SHARE. Update your professional subscriptions to include publications such as Teaching Tolerance or Rethinking Schools. Form a virtual book club with fellow educators, administrators, or friends. Read books from the Coretta Scott King Book Award list with your students or family. Add podcasts to your playlist such as Seeing White, Teaching While White, or Code Switch.
ENGAGE. Host an open house with students, administrators, and community organizers to hear concerns, needs, and suggestions. What supports do your Black students, teachers, staff, and families need and expect right now and in the future?
ADVOCATE. As TESOL educators, our student population is often learning American history and civics, perhaps more in-depth than ourselves. It’s important to be informed and engaged in the political processes that directly impact our work. Contact your Oregon State Senator or Representative, mayor, school or district leaders to find out how they are making changes to policing, social service funding, and education policy. Share your personal stories with them and ask for specific changes. Encourage other members from your neighborhood and schools to do the same.
DONATE. Consider supporting an organization that speaks to your heart: Black Immigrant Collective, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Black Lives Matter, Freedom to Thrive, National Bail Fund Network, Color of Change.
ORTESOL Board Report
The ORTESOL board met for the first of our 5 annual meetings on Saturday January 25th at Portland Community College, Southeast Campus. President Delpha Thomas moved into the Post President role. Davida Jordan moved from Vice President to the 2020 President, and Jessie Jimenez stepped in to become the Vice President. Beth Ronk became the new Refugee Concerns SIG Chair. Santiago Gustin became the new Communications Chair. Nanci Leiton will be continuing as Treasurer. Susan Caisse will be continuing as Conference Co-Coordinator. Josh Schultze will be continuing as Higher Ed Co-Chair. Patrick Ahern will be continuing as K-12 SIG Co-Chair. We also said goodbye to Secretary Kit Emens-Hesslink and Publishers’ Liaison Julie Vorholt.
We welcomed four new board members. Lily Cordero joins us as the Workshop and Conference Co-Coordinator, Naila Bairamova as the Volunteer Coordinator, Annie Ittner as the K-12 SIG Co-Chair, and Sarah Coffer as the Advocacy Chair.
The board spent the first portion of the meeting with transitions and introductions. We began a list of the other group affiliations on the white board. By the end of introductions, we’d covered almost 3 white boards with the groups, connections, and affiliations of board members.
Our first order of business was to make tough decisions about 2020 priorities. We’ve seen a decrease in membership since the last TESOL convention was in Portland in 2014. We’ve seen a decrease in the number of adult and higher education job opportunities. However, we have seen an increase in the number of K-12 job opportunities and the dire need for ESL education and training by K-12 teachers. Diversifying the theme of our professional development opportunities to include more K-12 activities was decided upon. The board discussed many ways of encouraging more participation from busy K-12 teachers.
In addition, ORTESOL seeks to have more engagement from members. We saw powerfully how the Immigrant Action Workgroup was able to organize a thread of sessions at our 2019 fall conference. We’d like to cultivate that spirit among members. The board voted to forgo the traditional spring workshop in order to organize smaller, but more frequent opportunities for professional development. We will be talking more about this for the future, so stay tuned!
Additionally, the board discussed ways to increase our efforts reaching students to bring vitality, growth, and connections into the organization. ORTESOL membership isn’t just an opportunity to support our advocacy efforts, or a way to ensure conferences, but it’s also a way to demonstrate members’ commitment to the field and interest in continual professional development. As an aside, we’ve already announced that TESOL 2023 will be in Portland, but few people realize that without ORTESOL, TESOL wouldn’t be coming. This awesome PD opportunity wouldn’t be available without the continued work that ORTESOL does every day.
ORTESOL members are welcome to attend board meetings. Our next board meeting will take place on March 7, 2020 at 10:00am at Portland Community College, Southeast Campus.
New ORTESOL Advocacy Chair Sarah Coffer connected with keynote speaker Patrice Palmer at our fall conference, and Patrice wrote an article about the school where Sarah teaches!
by Helen Johnson, TIUA, Salem, OR, USA
I am a Senior instructor in the American Studies Program (ASP) at Tokyo International University of America (TIUA) located at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. The ASP program is a one-year English immersion study abroad program for students of Tokyo International University (TIU) in Kawagoe, Japan.
I recently presented a teaching tip, the Readlang web tool, at the Fall 2019 ORTESOL Conference in Oregon. My presentation came to fruition from a workshop I attended at the World Languages Studio at Willamette University which is a place where students can use numerous resources to support and enhance their foreign language learning efforts, to engage in learning about other cultures, and to participate in cultural events. At this workshop, I was introduced to a free web tool, Readlang, which functions as an instantaneous translator of text, dictionary and vocabulary builder offered in various languages.
Recent literature indicates that in the era of technology the language learner will opt to use an online translator, dictionary, e- tool, or an app to facilitate language learning. According to Jin & Deifell (2013), “online dictionaries are most often consulted when learners are creating and/or deciphering digitally mediated written texts.” Given that the Readlang web tool is user friendly and ideal for any language learner, I decided to pilot Readlang in my (B1-B2: CEFR) reading class at TIUA.
As educators, we know that in any given class, even though the class may consist of a specific level of language proficiency, we will have an array of students with different capabilities and skills within that level. Readlang was an effective tool for my class; it allowed my students to read any online material, ebook or text that one can import from the internet while using the Readlang tool to translate words and phrases, and check vocabulary definitions while reading. For every word or phrase one clicks, vocabulary lists and flashcards are automatically created to allow for vocabulary review.
The Readlang blog http://blog.readlang.com/about/ is informative and very interesting with details of the history and creator of Readlang. There is a variety of features https://readlang.com/features albeit some of the advanced features may require a paid subscription. The Beginners Guide to Readlang Tutorial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I10qWoQEi5U offers step by step instructions on how to get started and create a free account. There is a Facebook account as well: https://www.facebook.com/readlang/. I continue to use Readlang in my classes to support, enhance and evaluate the progress of my students. Readlang is a teaching tip worth exploring in the language learning process.
Jin, L., & Deifell, E. (2013). Foreign language learners' use and perception of online dictionaries: A survey study. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Fall. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no4/jin_1213.pdf
We have been living out the mission of ORTESOL in many ways over the last year. Here are just a few of the achievements of members of our all-volunteer board of directors.
● Hosted “Empowering Teachers, Empowering Learners” a spring workshop at Clackamas Community College’s main campus with close to 100 participants, including the AVID Student Spotlight, hosted by K12 SIG Chair, Patrick Ahern.
● Established the “Advocacy” page on our website under the direction of Jessie Jimenez, our Advocacy SIG Chair, and proudly sponsored ESL Awareness Week, March 10-16, 2019 with a proclamation from Governor Kate Brown’s office.
● Advocated for Oregon teachers in Washington D.C. by meeting with staff members of three representatives and both Oregon senators to discuss the impact of policy on teachers and learners in Oregon. Two Oregon lawmakers subsequently co-sponsored the Reaching English Learners Act, which will provide resources to better equip educators to identify and instruct English learners.
● Walked with Portland Parks and Recreation’s Walk with Immigrants and Refugees.
● Walked at the “Red for Ed” rally in support of funding for K-12.
● Advocacy Chair, Jessie Jimenez, attended the TESOL Advocacy Summit in D.C.
● Vice-President, Davida Jordan, awarded two ORTESOL members, Kelsey Daniels and Maiko Hata, the James Nattinger Travel Grant to attend the TESOL Convention.
● Gave seven free TESOL memberships (value $98).
● And journal editors Verena Sutherland and Jennifer Morris Published the ORTESOL JOURNAL Volume 36, 2019. Check out current & past issues at ortesol.org/journal.
We look forward to continuing to support all ESOL professionals in Oregon. As we look ahead to 2020, Davida Jordan will lead ORTESOL as President, Jessie Jimenez will be Vice President, and Delpha Thomas will be staying on the board in a post-presidency role. If you are passionate about leadership and service, consider joining the ORTESOL board!
by Kelsey Daniels
This past March, I had the privilege of being awarded the James Nattinger Travel Grant to attend the TESOL International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia (thank you, thank you, ORTESOL!). Given that this was my first ever convention, I was absolutely filled to the brim with the vim and vigor of a very eager beaver—and I was determined to use this opportunity to learn everything I could, meet everyone I could, and fill every moment I could to the maximum. So, strapping on my shoes and slinging my laptop bag over my shoulder, I marched out the door of my Airbnb before 7 a.m. (that’s 4 a.m. on the west coast!) on the first morning of the conference armed and ready to take it all in.
And…by about 3:34 p.m. that afternoon, all my gusto and gumption had all but petered out as I sat in the lobby of the Georgia World Congress Center like a deer caught in the headlights, scrolling through the TESOL app unsure about which of the 21 talks to go to at 4 p.m., which of the 6000 attendees I should introduce myself to next, and which compartment of my brain I could possibly squeeze more new information into.
Obviously, I write in jest, but—in all sincerity—an international conference of this size is truly overwhelming even for the most enthusiastic of us in the bunch. So, I’ve decided to summarize here what I learned in Atlanta about how to survive and thrive at the TESOL International Convention. I give you below five of my best suggestions for making the most of your time at TESOL. And, like any good teacher, I’ve tried to allocate you with alliterations to alleviate the trouble of trying to remember all my tremendous trips, I mean, tips! Hope you enjoy!
Apply the app
My first piece of advice is to apply the app. By that I mean, download the TESOL app—familiarize yourself with it, search for attendees with it, message other attendees with it, find presentations with it, schedule the talks you want to see with it. Seriously, this app was so useful. So, use it!
Find a friend
My second piece of advice is to find a friend at the conference who can help you acclimate. I was the only person from my school who went to Atlanta, but I was able to find a few friends from a previous school I taught at who were also attending. These colleagues were lifesavers when I first arrived. They helped me get from the airport to the convention center, store my luggage, check in, go to the first session, and eat dinner—all in the span of about 3 hours. Whew! After that first night, we all adventured around the conference separately, but I was so grateful for their help in learning how to navigate the conference—in fact, points #3 and #4 came from them!
Choose a cherry
My third piece of advice is to “choose a cherry.” Let me explain. As I mentioned above, the information available to you at the convention is astonishing. There is absolutely no way any human being could drink non-stop from that fountain and retain it all. So, decide ahead of time what you’re looking for from the conference. Narrow your focus to a few topics of interest for the week. For example, because I had recently started working at a community college for the first time, I chose to prioritize talks that would help me understand the uniqueness of the community college ESL landscape a bit better. This simple heuristic helped me choose between dozens of simultaneous talks more easily.
Eventually, I used this same principle of “choosing a cherry” within each session as well. At first, I was feverishly taking notes on everything each presenter said, but I soon wearied under the weight of information overload. So, instead, I began to listen for the cherry on top that I would take away from that session. You don’t need to remember everything (indeed, you can’t!), so just listen and ask yourself, “What is one thing I can take away from this session of the conference?” Write that down.
Sit on the sidelines
My fourth piece of advice is to sit on the sidelines. Now, I do not mean to say that you should not participate fully in the conference. Rather, I mean that, literally, if possible, sit on the edge of the aisle in the sessions you attend. Unfortunately, you will regularly have to choose between 3 or 4 concurrent talks that you really want to go to, and occasionally you will need to slip out of one to go to another. Sometimes you didn’t realize this was an hour-and-forty-five-minute session, and there’s another talk you’re dying to hear in an hour across the hall. Other times the session description was unclear, and now you realize that you’d prefer to spend this 30 minutes in a session that’s more relevant to your work. Whatever the case may be, it’s best if you sit near the edge of the row so you can exit respectfully and quietly if necessary.
Network with (n)tension
Finally, my fifth piece of advice is that you network with (n)tension (please pardon the poor punctuation—I was desperate for another alliteration!). With 6000 attendees at TESOL, it would be unrealistic to think that all of your random introductions pre- and post-sessions are going to spontaneously lead to productive collaborations in the future (I lost track of how many times I introduced myself to someone new after about 168). Relying on these chance meetings to connect you with a future mentor, collaborator, employer, or employee in the field is silly. Instead, use the TESOL app to strategize about who it is that you would like to connect with. Reach out to them and ask if you can grab coffee for 30 minutes. Maybe they work at a school you would like to; maybe they work in a subfield or a role you’re exploring; maybe they gave a talk on a topic you want to know more about. Regardless, be intentional about who you meet with and how. Those 5, 30-minute, strategically-planned, coffee breaks are much more likely to shape your career long after the conference than any of the 30, 5-minute, chance encounters before and after each session. So, be intentional, and go ye therefore and network!
by Kara Sappington, ORTESOL Post-President and Associate Director – Corban Language Institute
I knew going into my trip that I would have a “formative” experience at the U.S./Mexico Border but I did not realize how challenged I would be to see in agendaless wonder, immerse in community, and process what contending and restoration could look like both on the border and in my own community in Oregon.
I had the privilege to participate in an immersion trip with other professors, leadership, staff and students from my university. It was an intense three days of hearing personal stories from immigrants, learning about different perspectives on the topic of immigration, and seeing creative ways communities have worked to meet needs -- an immersive experience that would have otherwise been inaccessible to me.
Two native women from Tijuana shared about both the positives and negatives that have stemmed from non-profit and faith based groups coming to their region. They stressed the importance of relationship and having both parties contribute to help solve a problem. We walked thru part of the city that has medical tourism and a red light district filled with brothels. One woman caught my eye as she stood with a short skit and heels reading a book on the sidewalk in front of a club. I wondered what her story was, what access to education she had, and what her hopes were for the future. Each person had a story.
At a local café, I was able to hear from two Dreamer moms who had been deported from the U.S. and separated from their children. Dreamer children, also referred to as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), are those who were raised in the United States since before they were 16. One Dreamer mom had a short term visa to the United States but when they went to Mexico she was unable to enter back into the U.S. It has now been 10 years, she has experienced her children getting married and having kids all by distance. She said how it was hard each time they had a video call to be strong for her family. Dreamer Moms USA/Tijuana was formed in 2014 to support other deported parents whose children are still in the United States with services offered include legal assistance, housing referrals, therapy, food pantry, and other support.
Another population that hit close to my heart was deported Veterans. Hector Barajas-Verela is the director of DVHS (Deported Veterans Support House). The mission of the Deported Veterans Support House is to “support deported veterans staying at the “bunker” on their path to self-sufficiency by providing assistance in the realms of food, clothing and shelter as they adjust to life in their new country of residence. Ultimately, they hope to see an end to the need of our services as people advocate for political legislation, which would prohibit the deportation of United States Veterans, both former and current.” I met a veteran that was honorable discharged after serving in Vietnam and continued additional years serving in the coast guard. He understood at recruitment that he could gain citizenship while serving in the military but it appeared there were not clear steps or support on what he needed to do to become a U.S. citizen.
There are thousands of men, women and children who continue to make their way to Tijuana with hopes of finding a job, resettling or seeking entrance into the United States. I was able to visit and stay overnight at a men’s shelter, Casa del Migrante, that supports deportees and migrant men. They process around 10,000 men at the shelter each year and provide holistic services including basic care, education, employment services, legal advice and counseling. Here is an old video on Casa del Migrante shelter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvVHlcFKI84 Historically, single men have been the primary populations but over the last few years the demographics have changed. This required a quick response from the community to house women and children. I was able to visit the Salvation Army Women’s Shelter, which has been in existence for four years now in Tijuana to meet the needs of migrants and deportees. A mom from Guatemala with her 11 year old son and 5 year old daughter shared her story of feeing the local gangs who were targeting her son and threatening her family. Families like her need to make a decision if they will continue their application for asylum even though their chances for approval are low or look for other options for resettlement.
As shelters continue to grow in the Tijuana area, there is a new effort to have better collaboration, sustainability and empowerment across the dignified shelters network. For example, a local orphanage was often visited by groups that would bring junk food. This is high cost, not healthy for the children and youth and can promote a dependable attitude. As an alternative, the dry dead ground on the campus was revitalized and now houses a garden. The children and youth have been taught sustainability and now are grow many items in the garden.
The last day of my formative experience I got to hear from two very different groups: U.S. Border Patrol and Border Angels. The U.S. Border Patrol shared about their goal of “catching the big fish” and tracking the cartels. It was evident that there would be a benefit on additional funding for judges to process the back log of immigration and asylum requests, additional agents, updated holding facilities that could accommodate women and children and more resources at the ports of entry. Border Angels is a humanitarian and activist group that was formed in 1986. Enrique, Executive Director of Border Angels, is quoted as saying, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not watching”.
As I traveled to the border, this was really a physical illustration of the walls that have developed in hearts. One leader said it well, “walls in our hearts, breeds walls outside”. At Friendship Park you could see the pillar that years ago was the only line separating the U.S. and Mexico Border. Now you can see two layers of fence that separate San Diego and Tijuana. One thing I continued to remind myself throughout the journey is how important it is to hear personal stories and understand both side of a controversial issue such as immigration and not form opinions by one media source.
There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. (DHS.gov) Immigration isn’t an issue reserved to the halls of politics, it’s a daily reality in your city. How might schools, businesses and non-profit organizations be mobilized as an instrument of peace in this human reality? How are students and families in your classroom being impacted? How might we approach immigration from a human perspective?
During our debrief, we got to hear from Adam who was a math teacher for 12 years and now works with helping bring together communities to address immigration issues. As a teacher he didn’t realize how close the issues of immigration were until he was helping some of his students apply for college and financial aid and they didn’t have social security numbers. He saw a need and continued to follow doors that were opened and now uses his understanding of education and desire to help others in a new way. Another woman shared about how she got involved in a community center when she moved to a new neighborhood in Tijuana. Her Zumba instructor approached her about tutoring her and having English conversation after the classes. This relationship allowed for her to advocate when the Zumba instructor had a confusing insurance bill from a hospital visit. Having opportunities to see, immerse and contend can come from the classroom, the community or personal relationships.
The trip compelled me to move the topic of immigration from a polarizing, political issue to a human, social issue to really think about how I can be more aware, advocate and care for the strangers or students in my midst. I am continually challenged by how I can see, immerse and creatively contend for those in my sphere of influence.
What can you do to learn more?
Walk around your neighborhood with open eyes. Meet those around your neighborhood, community centers and other spheres of influence. Take time to learn and listen.
Learn about immigration resources in your area.
Learn about Oregon programs such as ORSAA (Oregon Student Aid Application), which allows Oregon residents who are undocumented to apply for higher education financial aid.
Learn about relevant House Bills in the Oregon State Legislature. For example:
House Bill 2015 would eliminate the requirement that a person provide proof of legal residency to obtain a non-commercial driver’s license, driver’s permit, or ID card.
House Bill 2508 would requires Department of Human Services to award grants to refugee resettlement agencies to provide specified services to refugees.
House Bill 2019 establishes a fund for Student Success in education.
How can you see? Where can you sit and listen, longer than you normally would? How can you creatively contend by advocating?
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