later, Hyrum raid echoing through elementary school
By Devin Felix
May 3, 2007 | HYRUM -- Nearly five months after the
raid on the Hyrum Swift & Co. meat packing plant, in
which 147 undocumented workers were arrested, Cache
Valley schools are still feeling the effects.
Lynette Riggs, principal of Lincoln Elementary School
in Hyrum estimates five or six families of students
who attended the school have been deported. It's difficult
to know exact numbers, she said, because some families
left on their own and some stopped sending their kids
to school after the raid because of fear.
The drop in attendance was at its worst directly after
the raid, she said. The raid occurred at 7 a.m. and
word of the spread quickly through Cache Valley's Hispanic
community. When school started at 9:05 at Lincoln Elementary
in Hyrum, about 20 fewer Hispanic students were in attendance
than normal, Riggs said.
In the days that followed, attendance numbers of the
school's more than 100 Hispanic students dropped and
remained low for several weeks. Fearful parents saw
the school as part of the same government that had taken
away their loved ones; they dreaded what might happen
if they sent their children back, Riggs said.
In addition to drops in attendance, teachers and administrators
at Lincoln say students have shown behavioral or academic
changes as well.
After the raid, nearly every child, Hispanic, white
and otherwise, seemed to sense that something was dreadfully
wrong, Reynolds said. They were very sympathetic to
the students impacted by the arrests, she said. Her
students never went anywhere alone in the days immediately
following that Tuesday, and an air of apprehension and
fear hung on the class.
"When this happened, this school was an absolute morgue,"
said Riggs. "There were a lot of tears, and not just
from students. Children were crying for each other and
teachers were crying for their students. There was great
Three students in Deb Reynolds' first grade class
had parents picked up in the raid. All three became
distant and somber, Reynolds said, but the behavior
of one soon changed dramatically. Alex, whose mother
was in jail, became verbally and physically aggressive.
He was mean and sarcastic to teachers, parents and students
alike. By the time Alex and his family were deported
in the first part of February, the rest of the children
were almost glad to see him go, Reynolds said.
Only one of those three students is still in the country.
Seven-year-old Adrian Carillo and his family are still
waiting to hear whether they'll be deported, said his
father, who is also named Adrian. Carillo went to court
in April, and the judge postponed deciding whether to
deport him until September 2008, he said.
While young Adrian's father was in jail, he struggled
academically more than any other student in the class,
Reynolds said. For most of the year, Adrian had been
far below grade level, in both reading and math.
He never volunteered answers in class, and he was
introverted and timid. His communication skills were
weak and on the playground he was usually a loner. All
that changed drastically after his father came home
in March, Reynolds said.
Instantly, she noticed a change in him. He became
more confident and went from barely functioning academically
to reading just below grade level and answering nearly
all his math questions correctly every day. And socially,
he became a completely different person.
"He has so much more confidence now," she said. "He'll
play with every kid in class now where before he was
too intimidated. He realizes now that he's smart enough,
where before he just didn't think he was smart at all.
And he smiles a lot more. I love that."
Carillo hopes his son's academic improvement will
help convince a judge to let him stay in the United
States, he said. At the advice of his lawyer, he's been
gathering letters from employers, friends, teachers
and others hoping to convince the judge that he is a
good person who should be allowed to remain in the country.
He asked Reynolds to write a letter about the progress
young Adrian was making in the American school system,
and the devastating effect it would have on him to be
removed from school and taken to Mexico. The judge asked
for his children's birth certificates to prove they
were born in the U.S., and copies of old bills to prove
he had been in the country longer than 10 years.
Like the Carillos, many families are still in limbo.
Some struggle while waiting for loved-ones to be released
from jail. And they wait to discover whether they'll
Even the school itself might soon suffer, because
the large number of student absences might keep the
school from meeting legal requirements for attendance,
which would count as a "black mark" against the school
at the end of the school year, Reynolds said.
Riggs predicts a lasting impact on the lives of the
children impacted by the raid.
"If you had white folks come and take your parents
away, how would that affect you as a kid when you live
in a world of white folks?" Riggs said.
"The real impact of this is on little children who
don't understand at all. They don't understand the laws
or the reasons for all this. What they understand is
the reality: that their mom or dad or uncle or aunt
was taken. It breeds mistrust in these children. We
look at other governments that treat people like this
and we think it's barbaric."