When an ICE raid in Nebraska ripped parents from their kids, teachers stepped in to help
Last week, ICE arrested dozens of people in the tiny rural town of O’Neill, Nebraska. Their children were left behind and given zero explanation as to where their parents had been taken, or when they’d return. In response to this awful, tragic situation, teachers reopened the only elementary school in town, and looked after kids as young as four months old.
On Wednesday, ICE raided workplaces across O’Neill, including a tomato plant, farms, and restaurants. The raid was connected to a “criminal conspiracy to exploit illegal alien laborers for profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.” In the process, law enforcement agents rounded up people who they alleged were undocumented workers with immigration violations, according to Buzzfeed News.
Teachers and administrators fielded panicked phone calls about the arrests throughout the morning, and then decided to reopen the town’s elementary school so they could take care of all the children left behind. Although it’s summer and the school wasn’t even open, the educators stepped up to care for the kids.
“Kids are resilient but something about their eyes — they definitely knew, they understood why they were there, they could hear people talking,” Jill Brodersen, assistant principal at O’Neill Elementary School, told Buzzfeed News.
Amy Shane, superintendent of O’Neill Public Schools, told the Omaha World Herald that community members went house to house, making sure that all children were accounted for. Teachers worked tirelessly to locate family members of the kids who had lost their parents.
Back at the elementary school, older kids cried. Younger kids were momentarily distracted with play-doh and toys. And teachers fed a 4-month-old, who was being breastfed by his mother, bottled formula. Throughout the day, relatives came and picked up children. When Brodersen realized that nobody was coming for the 4-month-old and her 7-year-old sister, she brought them home with her, fed them, and bathed them.
About twenty detainees were returned to their hometown by midnight on Wednesday. Some people arrested in the raid were handed a court date, which would mark the beginnings of deportation proceedings.
Meanwhile, protests broke out outside of the ICE office in Grand Island, NE. Christina Schilousky brought her 9-year-old daughter and told The Herald that this was a crucial moment for the two of them to experience.
“She needs to see the important people in her life stand up and be on the right side of history,” Schilousky said. “I want her someday to know when things have changed that her mom stood on the right side of this.”