NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Some Nacogdoches residents who are from Mexico and other Central American countries say fear is widespread in their neighborhoods and communities.
East Texas News spoke with those residents about the root causes Monday and how that fear is impacting school attendance.
Images of immigration agents conducting targeted enforcement operations across the country and state, including East Texas, can be seen on the news. An ICE spokesman confirmed similar arrests happened in Nacogdoches within the last three weeks.
That's when parent Elizabeth Saavedra, a Cuenta Comingo committee member, began noticing panic in Hispanic neighborhoods.
"Some parents are scared," Saavedra said. "They're scared to send their kids to school."
Saavedra tried to ease fears on her own school activity social media group page, but teachers still had empty desks and heard the concerns from parents.
"They were afraid they (ICE) were going to come into the school and take the kids away, and where are they going to be?" said Hilda Villanueva. teacher at Nettie Marshall. "And what if they were going to take the parents. What would happen to the children?"
Many of the worries are not warranted, so the district's outreach program, Cuenta Conmigo got involved.
"Cuenta Conmigo means, 'You can count on me, trust me," said Dalia Reyes, a Nacogdoches ISD community liaison.
Parents and educators asked Hispanic churches to help build that essential trust. It worked. A successful public meeting, all in Spanish, was held.
"We had a good turnout. We had about 200 people that attended the meeting," Reyes said. They were really interested and really engaged in the information."
School police provided facts on truancy laws. An attorney spoke about immigration laws. Literature on the legal dos and don'ts for a person questioned about documentation was handed out.
"Do not open the door. Please remain silent," Saavedra said. "Do not sign anything without reading. Grab your phone. Record everything. And make a plan just in case. Be ready for it."
School district representatives say attendance is returning to normal. Cuenta Comigo will continue its original focus to engage parents on district goals, but agreed to address other topics that concern the Hispanic community.
This week Nacogdoches ISD will schedule a second meeting on immigration concerns.