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We’ve all seen the heartbreaking scenes of parents being arrested along our country’s southern border as their sobbing and traumatized children are stripped from their mothers’ protective arms and taken away by border patrol agents. These children were sent to detention facilities that look like prisons, complete with chain-link fencing and locked gates.

Aptly described as “government-sanctioned child abuse,” these actions cause severe, irreparable harm to children. This is not a political issue. This is a moral crisis. This is cruel and inhumane treatment. This is not the America I know — the land of the free and the home of the brave. This undermines the values of our diverse and welcoming nation. It destroys the fabric of our democracy and tarnishes our nation’s legacy of freedom and justice for all.

We have not been silent about this attack on fragile children and vulnerable families. We demanded an end to the misguided policies that tear children away from their immigrant parents who cross the border — and we prevailed. The president signed an executive order to keep immigrant families at the border together, ending the policy of tearing children away from their parents.

While the executive order is a good first step, more must be done to address the policy of persecuting everyone who tries to cross the border. More must be done to end the scourge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across this country. These ICE raids result in the deportation of people who have lived and worked in our country for decades. Many of them have raised children who were born in this country. These parents are being forcibly removed from their homes, taken away from their families, and deported.

Immigration issues are complicated, but children should not be pawns in a political battle. To instill in a family the fear that they will be separated forever, deported, and never see their children again, is unforgivable.

While Connecticut is far from the Mexican border, our classrooms are filled with students from around the world — some whose parents are here legally, others who are not. Teachers in Connecticut and across the country are telling stories about their students’ fear that their parents will be deported while they are at school and that they will never see them again. The stress, anxiety, trauma, and depression these students face only adds to their burden.

Educators are doing what they can to help students and families traumatized by the deportation campaign. America is the land of opportunity, and our education system — the great equalizer — paves the way. Parents know this and want what is best for their children. They protect their children from harm and do all they can to keep them safe. That includes fleeing from violence and persecution in their home country to come to the United States in hopes of a better life.

The Statue of Liberty, recognized as a symbol of strength, acceptance, freedom, equality, and democracy, is engraved with the famous words of Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus”: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

These words epitomize America as a truly great nation of diverse immigrants — a sovereign nation whose sacred ideals we must continue to fight for and protect. That means putting a stop to the heartless assault on immigrant children and families. We can do no less.

Sheila Cohen is the president of the Connecticut Education Association, which is is included among the sponsors of this website.

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