Education

Post-election stress hits Lexington immigrants and students

President-elect Donald Trump.
President-elect Donald Trump. Associated Press

Lexington immigration attorney Marilyn Daniel faced a packed room of Hispanic immigrants and advocates Sunday who were anxious about the future under President-elect Donald Trump.

No one knows what the Trump administration will do after he is inaugurated Jan. 20, Daniel told the more than 100 people gathered for a community meeting at the Village branch of the Lexington Public Library.

But she said that given statements Trump had made, all people who are undocumented need to be prepared. She encouraged them to make arrangements for their children, their property and their vehicles, including making two sets of keys, in case they were deported. Paper packets were handed out to help families organize their personal information so a trusted friend could act in their absence.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Daniel, the founder of the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic. “But we know something is going to happen.”

A similar meeting between immigration attorneys and immigrants was held Saturday in Manassas, Va.,, NBC Channel 4 in Washington, D.C., reported.

Sunday night, on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Trump said that his administration will try to promptly deport as many as 3 million immigrants with criminal records who are in the country illegally but that he will defer other action he called for in the campaign until the border is secure.

The post-election anxiety stems from statements Trump made on the campaign trail.

Trump, according to the television station, said he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives temporary work permits to immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children. Much of the conversation at the Lexington meeting centered on DACA.

Trump first called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on” and then “a suspension of immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur.”

Trump also said Mexico sent rapists and criminals to the United States, and he promised to build a wall between the countries and force Mexico to pay for it.

“The community is worried and anxious,” Nathalie A. Dietrich, an immigration fellow at the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic who spoke at Sunday’s meeting, told the Herald-Leader. “People are worried the ICE might come in and pick them up to be put into deportation proceedings. A lot of people in the community have been here for many years and have strong community ties. They pay their taxes, own property, have children in school, college. Many families live in what we call mixed-status families. That means they have different immigration statuses.”

Many immigrants in Lexington are in a classification called “temporary protective status,” meaning they have to get their status renewed every 18 months, Dietrich said.

“We are mostly worried about people that are undocumented,” or are in the deferred action or temporary protective status, and, “of course, about children that could be left behind with their parents gone,” Dietrich said.

Immigration attorney Guion Johnstone, the director of the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, said people in the crowd asked her about their cases and wanted to know whether they are at risk of deportation.

Daniel urged them to report it if they are harassed or bullied.

Meanwhile, post-election stress has surfaced among students in Fayette County Public Schools, district wellness coordinator Debbie Boian said.

Boian told school board members last week that “students are a little bit stressed and anxious about election results, they are reporting to clinics.”

Boian said the school clinics are working with the schools to support students and their families. Boian said she wasn’t sure about the demographics of the students seeking treatment from anxiety-related ailments. School counselors, family resource centers and wellness coordinators have been given resources. Boian said they’ve been distributing “mostly information on tolerance and working with others.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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