Although she’s been hosting these workshops once a month for five years, Waltham High School Family and Community Engagement Specialist Mary Jo Rendon acknowledged that this month’s installment of the Family Leadership Workshops had a different tone to it.

Typically a chance for Latino family members to better connect with their children’s school, their teachers and their curriculum, last Saturday the workshop focused exclusively on the uncertainty facing Waltham’s immigrant families.

“This was completely different,” Rendon said Monday. “We altered our program given the political situation right now to invite more community members to show solidarity with our families.”

Noticeable unease

Saturday’s workshop featured city and school leaders, plus immigration lawyers, who offered support to a room full of children, mothers and fathers who could face further challenges from a presidential administration that’s promised a crackdown on illegal immigration.

According to Rendon, there’s been a noticeable unease at the high school, as federal policy appears poised for a turn toward harsher immigration enforcement. Students have expressed a desire to know more about their individual situations, while parents have called seeking referrals for legal aid.

“For me personally, and I know for my colleagues who are here,” said Diane LeBlanc, president of the Waltham City Council. “We never want our children in Waltham to be afraid. This is a secure community, this is a welcoming community and … we’re here to help you.”

Alexandra Peredo, a bilingual attorney of immigration, reminded the families at Saturday’s gathering of their basic rights: Among them their right to remain silent and retain a lawyer, and to keep law enforcement officials out of their homes when they come without a warrant.

“I don’t think I’ve ever come across a group of professionals, administrators or teachers more dedicated to the job of teaching and everything that that means,” said Victor Maldonado, another immigration attorney. “I wish they could be an example to our new administration.”

According to Maldonado, life for immigrants under President Donald Trump’s administration will be challenging at times, though he added that it’s important for parents not to pass on unfounded concerns to their kids.

Read on the Waltham News Tribune

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