ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A handful of Alaska educators spent the weekend in El Paso,Texas participating in a rally calling for the closure of all federal detention centers housing immigrant children and their families.
"The idea that some of these children may never be reunited is just an idea that's hard for me to put into words," Jan Littlebear said in a phone interview Sunday night.
Littlebear, a retired teacher from Anchorage, spent the day at the "Teach-In For Freedom," a first-of-its-kind rally with several hundred other educators and activists.
The event brought educators from across the country and Mexico to give presentations on a number of immigration-related topics while armed with banners and signs reading "#classroomsnotcages" and "children need freedom to grow.”
Littlebear and fellow Alaskan participants, Cheryl Childers and Al Licata, discussed immigration in the United States today with the crowd. Childers said another participant Ben Walker, Alaska's 2018 teacher of the year, discussed the ways significant trauma impacts developing minds like that of adolescents.
"Getting the children reunited with their parents or reunited with their family members that were already in this country and ready to sponsor them, that's number one. We can't keep housing children in these huge centers," Childers said.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported as of late 2018, the number of children in federally-funded shelters and facilities had climbed to more than 14,000.
"These are the kids we love, these are the kids that come into our rooms that we watch over. They're our kids, they belong with us and we want to teach them," Littlebear said of the motivation to participate in the rally while citing Anchorage's own diversity, with the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage being listed as one of the most diverse census tracts in the country.