Shelter from the storm: Teacher goes viral with offer to students of deported parents

A Los Angeles area teacher’s offer of a free room to students whose parents are deported in immigration raids has gone viral.

James M. Tilton, an English teacher at Eastside High School in Lancaster, about an hour and 20 minutes from Los Angeles, took to Twitter on Tuesday, in reaction to President Donald’s Trump tweet saying that “ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens.”

Tilton reminded his students that he and his wife “are foster certified and have an extra room” in case students need a place to stay if their parents are deported.

The tweet has gone viral since, racking up 31,000 retweets and 89,000 likes as of Saturday afternoon.

“I think it’s part of being a teacher, making sure that your students don’t only succeed in your classroom but that they are cared for outside of it too,” Tilton told NBC4 News on Friday. “I’m sad and angry that this is necessary, and nothing about our country’s current approach to immigration is heart-warming to me,” Tilton posted on Twitter on Thursday. “If one of my students ever comes into that room, it will be on the worst day of their lives.”

Attention to his offer only grew after the news Friday that the Trump administration would conduct mass immigration raids starting Sunday that could target up to 2,000 people facing deportation orders. Trump on Saturday said he will delay the raids for two weeks.

Last year, one of Tilton’s students whose mother was deported stayed in the same spare room he is offering now.

Tilton’s high school has an overall minority enrollment of about 94 percent, according to U.S. News and World Report. About 60 percent of the students are Hispanic.

At least 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and New York City, had been preparing for possible immigration raids targeting undocumented families. While the mass raids have been delayed, according to Trump, the reports have sparked fear around the country.

“We have a saying in our community, you know, ‘undocumented and unafraid.’ but the truth is that we are very afraid,” Diana, an undocumented college student and one of Tilton’s former student who wished to only disclose her first name, told NBC4 News in California.

While “the offer of a room is limited to current or former students of mine,” Tilton tweeted, “if there’s anything I can do for your parents, I’d love to do that too.”

In the past, Tilton has contacted senators and representatives to try to help, he said.

“I can help you write a petition or organize a demonstration. Whatever might help,” Tilton said on Twitter in a message intended for undocumented people inside and outside his school community.

NBC News was not able to immediately contact Tilton for this story.