Many students at IPS school for immigrants feeling anxiety over policies

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Some Indianapolis students are anxious about their futures amid discussion about immigration policies in the United States.

Indianapolis Public Schools created the Newcomer Program for immigrant and refugee students who arrived in the country within the last year. The tense political climate and uncertainty about deportations are adding to the students’ concerns.

“We’ve had students crying, students that can’t pull it back together,” said ESL teacher Katherine Hinkle. “Students that hear rumors and they don’t really know what’s true and what’s not true.”

There are around 200 students in the Newcomer Program, which launched for the 2016-2017 school year.

“Students who came fleeing from violence in their countries, maybe from gangs or whatever chaotic events were happening in their lives,” said Mario Salinas, the ESL bilingual social worker for IPS.

In the halls, there is some fear among the students. One ninth grader agreed to talk to us about her situation as long as we hide her identity.

The 15-year-old said her father and two brothers were murdered in Honduras. She spent time living on the streets. Last year, she made it to the United States with a friend to reunite with her mother in Indiana.

In Spanish, she said she feels she has a future here and the ability to attend school. She also said she’s worried about being sent back because her life has been threatened.

To address these serious concerns, teachers lead circle discussions each morning. Plus, the school offers art therapy for refugees.

“It’s kind of trying to navigate through those feelings, trying to be scholastic in the end,” Hinkle said. “Making them feel like this is a safe place and it’s OK to open up. But, there’s tomorrow and we’re going to get through it.”

The staff is hosting a workshop on Feb. 15 for families to learn their rights and what to do if they face deportation. The workshop is being held at 6 p.m. at Forest Manor, 4501 East 2nd Street.

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