Some barely know English, and others can only mouth a few of the words, but each McMurray Middle School refugee student stands at attention when the Pledge of Allegiance comes on over the intercom.
And each proudly covers their heart with eyes fixated on the United States flag.
It’s the scene Rachel Haltiwanger is greeted with every morning as a teacher with the school’s Students with Interrupted Formal Education program, aimed at helping mostly refugee students. And it’s a scene she asked President Donald Trump via a Facebook post to see after he implemented a temporary travel ban of seven Muslim-majority countries.
“I wrote the letter to him saying I would love for you to meet these children you are keeping out,” she said of the Facebook post. “To come meet my Syrian students that just got here in the last week before the ban and see what they are doing at the school to help America be great.”
Haltiwanger created the post because she saw many people bash or express fear of refugees in light of Trump’s order Jan. 27 that barred citizens from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen for 90 days.
The order also suspended the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program for at least four months. A day after the order was signed, however, a federal judge granted an emergency stay, halting part of the president’s executive decision that has caused some families to be detained and worldwide protests.
Many of Haltiwanger’s students are from the countries listed in the ban, and the school hasn’t seen any new refugee students pass through its doors since the ban took effect last week.
McMurray Middle School regularly saw about one new refugee student every day throughout the school year. Its program is the only one like it among all of Nashville’s middle schools and serves all of the city.
Every student and parent who has ever passed through the program has been extremely grateful and friendly, Haltwinger said, and she wanted to convey that within the Facebook post.
“We do parent teacher conferences as home visits so we go to the student’s houses and we meet with their parents, and every single family makes us tea or coffee,” she said. “They won’t let us leave until we’ve drank three cups, and they want to know about our lives and thank us so much for serving their kids.”
SOURCE: Jason Gonzales