Wednesday May 1, 2024

Who Will Take Care of Us

“Miss Mary, who will take care of us when they take our parents away?” This was a real question I received from a 7th grade student at Roosevelt Middle School last week. I visit Roosevelt each week as part of ReadOKC’s Book Club/Reading Buddies program, where the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation pairs adult volunteers with small groups of students to spend time each week reading and mentoring.

I hear a lot from the seven girls in my Book Club. We’ve built a lot of trust with each other and we have conversations that are sometimes typical of 7th graders, full of giggles and grins. Sometimes they are so adult in nature they make me squirm a bit. Sometimes our conversations make me woefully sad because I hear about their struggles at home and in life. I wish I could do more to help them, but one thing I know I can do is show up every week.

But, last Friday’s question and ensuing conversation got to me. Why should children have to spend any time worrying about losing their parents to an immigration bill that is short-sighted, ill- advised and will likely be held up as unconstitutional? As has been stated very clearly in opposition to this legislation, there are dire unintended consequences at stake. This is not a bill that will just “stop crime”. This legislation could harm our economy by reducing a large part of our work force. Think about this: what would happen if all undocumented workers didn’t show up for work for just one day? These are many times behind the scenes workers and support workers doing hard work that keeps our economy going. Not to mention the fact that these are our neighbors and friends and community members.

Oklahoma City Public Schools sent a message to families and staff last week reassuring everyone that our schools are a safe and welcoming place for all students, regardless of their immigration status. OKCPS does not and will not collect the immigration status of our students or their families. 

Luckily that was a message I could share with my girls. I also shared that there are a lot of people in Oklahoma who care about them who don’t want this to happen. And, that Governor Stitt hasn’t signed the legislation into law. Yet.

I feel so many emotions when I spend time with my Book club. Mostly I feel hopeful. These girls are incredibly smart and capable. They are kids, but kids with wisdom rare for their young age. I believe they are overcomers and they will change the world. Here’s hoping the Oklahoma Standard will come through for them this time. 

–Mary Mélon-Tully, President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation

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