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Friday, May 7, 2021

Students Tell Why They Are Opposed to Anti-Immigrant Policies

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Analogies between energy-sucking corporations and Nazi Germany’s wartime concentration camps drew applause from K-12 students as they studied international human rights issues at a school-sponsored after-school program.

“Be very lenient on these companies that create a really dangerous environment for people,” a female student, who went by Hana, told her classmates after anti-immigrant flyers and yelling was greeted with swastikas on school grounds here last week.

The comments, during a public meeting at the national headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League, were made in answer to an invitation to describe the corporate, governmental and institutional structures that are driving ethically questionable behavior in her country.

After the gathering on Oct. 5, which drew reporters and nearly 40 attendees, Jacob Johnson, executive director of the school’s Future Foresight Initiatives program, told The New York Times he felt that the students came out of the experience clear-eyed about America’s moral compass.

“They understand more clearly than anyone else why it is so difficult to control aggressive anti-immigrant sentiment in our society and they understand why the racism that is present in mainstream American society has taken root in parts of our society,” he said.

The Anti-Defamation League event focused on the school-identified populations that are struggling economically and experiencing extreme levels of hate, Mr. Johnson said. He said his hope was that the students would share their views of these populations with their teachers and parents.

Kamil Kamil, an education worker and teacher who spoke about asylum-seekers and human trafficking, made an “insightful connection” to his class’s experience, Mr. Johnson said.

“He told the students that the students had something to give back to the community and that the immigration debate in the States needs to get one step beyond being about the border, which is what I would agree with,” he said. “A lot of people would say, it is politics, it is immigration. Well, we are in a moment where this debate has become, I would argue, the matrix of what is going on in our society right now.”

Kaya S. Griffiths, a 20-year-old sociology and political science student who attended the two-hour session, said she left the ADL’s forum thinking about her family’s social safety net and being asked by family and friends, especially in the context of the presidential campaign, to talk about Donald Trump’s more extreme statements on immigrants and Mexicans.

Ms. Griffiths, who was born and raised in New York City, said she had questions about immigration that were “personal.”

“I thought about my family and the way that they often struggle to get by, and then also the kind of sense of curiosity that I would have to understand these policies, to not see my family differently because they’re here,” she said.

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