Local Syndrome: Parental Stressors

By on May 23, 2018

School’s (almost) out and the looming shadow of ICE weighs heavy on some families

(Ryan Stolp)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Every summer, hundreds of local kids attend various summer camps around the valley. From Teton Science School to the Art Association and the Rec Center, the options for summer distractions are numerous. And while most camps are pay-to-play, some offer scholarships and discounts to low-income and Latino families.

Annel Hernandez, client advocate at One22, grew up in Jackson and wished these opportunities were available when she was a child.

“Back then, we didn’t have the resources the community now offers,” she said. “Besides what was provided through school, we didn’t know anything else about outdoor activities. Our parents never got that information.”

Hernandez said she and her siblings were always home alone during the summer months while her parents worked long hours.

Today, she helps children to avoid a similar scenario. She works with parents to find the right camp for their kids. While some lean more towards academically-focused programs, many young parents are encouraging their kids to get involved in art and outdoor exploration, to become more dynamic. Hernandez, also a mother, is in that boat too: “We are telling our kids to pursue more than just working.”

Local summer camps are a great opportunity for working parents to have their children looked after during the work week. But such opportunities have introduced a new layer of anxiety for parents.

Today, parents in the Latino community drop their kids off at camp and walk away worrying about ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). They worry because immigration officers are apprehending undocumented people with greater frequency than in recent years.

One would think that the convenience of a summer camp would be a stress reliever for many parents, but for some, it has become the opposite.

“We do see that right now in the process of scholarships,” Hernandez said, “that a lot of them are afraid because of the situation of ICE, that they’re not safe.” She said parents worry they may get arrested while their children are in camp or that their children will become targets.

Unlike public and private schools, which ICE considers “sensitive locations” where, according to its website, “Enforcement actions … will generally be avoided,” summer camps often take place in public areas. That means they could be an exception.

Hernandez estimated that about 70 percent of the Hispanic community in Jackson is undocumented. But “undocumented” is not synonymous with “illegal,” Hernandez said.

Obtaining certain immigration status is complicated. “If it were easy [to get citizenship] everyone would do it. They would pay any money to do it,” Hernandez said. “I was speaking with a client yesterday and she said she has already paid around $20,000 just to get legal documents.”

Having grown up here, Hernandez, now a U.S. citizen, has certainly seen things change for the better in some ways. But she wants to see more advocacy and support from people outside of the Latino community. Until then, she will keep speaking out for struggling Latino families. She will speak for the people who are undocumented and afraid to speak out for themselves.

“I have dreams of becoming a teacher,” she said. “Maybe go into politics. I don’t know. I do what is necessary, what I believe to be good for Hispanics.”

For now, Hernandez will keep helping to shift cultural dynamics right where she is at One 22, starting with the youth. Summer camps, she said, are a good way for all children to get involved in the community at large, to express themselves.

Encouraging more diversity in camp participants can go a long way to bridging the gap between Jackson’s white and Hispanic communities.

“We need to have allies,” she said.

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