Travel ban presents new challenge to ASD employee
President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning all refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States has drawn mixed reactions from Alaskans. For some immigrants living in Anchorage, the order is disconcerting.
Marti Guzman is the family school services coordinator at Russian Jack Elementary in East Anchorage. The school is diverse, even by Anchorage School District standards. It is also a Title I school, meaning the principal student population is below the poverty line. That allows the school to receive federal funds for Guzman’s position, which aims to help students and their families succeed in school and at home.
“My purpose is to make sure everybody has what they need to be their best and to do their best,” Guzman explained. “At Russian Jack, you know that you’re not going to fall through the cracks. We’re not going to ignore your needs.”
Guzman spends a substantial amount of time with students who are the children of immigrants. She helps the kids adjust to life in a new place, but she also helps the parents understand American customs and laws.
“I’ve gone to court with parents. I’ve helped parents get things like licenses,” said Guzman, who said she even helped one parent study to become a certified massage therapist.
Guzman said following Trump’s executive order, parents have spoken with her about their concerns. She said in some cases, while a student may be an American citizen, their parents may not be.
“If they’re planning a trip to go every couple of years back to their home country, that has all been put on hold because they may not be able to all come back,” Guzman said. “If one parent is operating on a green card or does not have citizenship, that can just make the whole family feel stressed.”
She said one student’s mother told her she wanted to visit her mother in a country included in the ban, but that “it is no longer feasible because of her status.”
As the impacts of Trump’s order become clearer, Guzman said the most important thing she can do is listen.
“We are here for them in the most basic sense of: ‘Do you feel safe today? Your child is safe here. Do you have someone who you can lean on?’” she said. “Not so much as promoting one side over the other.”
Guzman said as new reports about the travel ban are published, it is important parents discuss the matter with their kids.
“Give it to them in kid language, but don’t assume that they don’t know what’s going on or that they know what’s going on,” Guzman recommended. “Respect everybody’s views.”
Correction: A earlier headline of this story incorrectly called Marti Guzman a counselor. The story has been amended.