Welcome to Refugee High: A new book gives a portrait of students' lives at one of Chicago's most diverse high schools during Trump's anti-immigrant campaign.

AuthorFishman, Elly

In the nine months since Donald Trump took office, he's been a source of fear at Chicago's Sullivan High School. As soon as his term began, the "Forty-fifth," as Chad Adams, the high school's principal, calls him, started a campaign to reduce the number of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers entering the United States. Shortly after Trump's Inauguration in January 2017, he announced a travel ban barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country.

The President pushed to allot $18 billion toward building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and prioritized the prosecution of criminal immigrant violations such as illegal entry. Chad knows that such rhetoric could shake students living in already tenuous circumstances. There are a lot of such kids at Sullivan: more than half of the school's students came to the United States as immigrants or refugees.

At 7:30 a.m., students start to pour into the hallways. Groups of girls in hijabs squeal as they greet one another. Congolese mothers, clad in bright Liputa dresses, admonish their children to stay nearby. Boys from the football team arrive in packs, their shouts to one another cutting across the wall of sounds.

In many ways, Sullivan, which is small by Chicago public school standards, operates like several mini-schools within the same building. Immigrant and refugee students tend to stick together and to classrooms in the north wing of the school. Their U.S.-born classmates, by contrast, tribe up based on sports teams, school clubs, grade levels, and academic tracks such as the medical and business programs, and the Reserve Officer' Training Corps.

On Friday, October 13, a Sullivan sophomore named Belenge, a Congolese refugee, starts his school day at the glass bus shelter on the intersection of Birchwood Avenue and Clark Street. He waits for a few of the other Congolese refugee students to meet at the corner before the group makes its daily trek the 1.2 miles south to Sullivan. The street is both busy and deserted.

The corner is bounded by largely empty parking lots, one for a generic strip mall with off-price clothing stores, a big athletic shoe shop, and a discount makeup store. Another lot is for a national bank. Beyond that is a string of rubble-strewn lots left empty by demolitions. The landscape is a familiar one in Chicago, a city where entire neighborhoods can go underserved and overlooked for decades on end. Chronic disenfranchisement propels rates of...

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