Education, News

PUSD Sites Deemed ‘Safe Zones’ for Immigrant Students and Their Families

Students threatened from immigration enforcement can now rely on educational institutions to be “sanctuary sites.” – Courtesy photo

Board of Education unanimously approves pre-emptive effort against impending uncertainty

By Gus Herrera

The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education recently passed a resolution deeming district sites as “safe zones” for students potentially threatened by immigration enforcement.

With the president-elect’s impending inauguration less than a month away, governing bodies of all scope and size, from the state level, all the way down to the district level, are enacting pre-emptive policy changes in preparation for the unknown.

In particular, the incoming administration’s outspoken and seemingly belligerent stance on immigration reform (if you can call it that) has inspired several educational institutions, cities, and districts to support the idea of creating “sanctuary sites” for immigrant students.

These “sanctuaries” vary in their specifics, but the general idea is to create safe havens that will not hand over undocumented individuals to federal authorities.

The PUSD’s version of “sanctuary” comes in the form of Resolution 2386, which was approved unanimously at the board’s final meeting of the year on Thursday, Dec. 22.

The formal text of the resolution reads as follows: “Now, therefore, be it resolved that the governing board of the PUSD declares that every PUSD site is a safe place for its students and their families to seek help, assistance, and information if faced with fear and anxiety about related immigration enforcement efforts … ”

It continues to state that, barring any applicable state, local, or federal law/regulation/ordinance, the district shall abide by the following three points of conduct:

  1. “District personnel shall treat all students equitably in the receipt of all school services … ”
  2. “District personnel shall not inquire about a student’s immigration status, including that of family members … ”
  3. “Any request by the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for information or to access a school site shall be immediately forwarded to the superintendent and general counsel for review and a decision … ”

According to PasadenaNow, Scott Phelps, PUSD board member, said the resolution was “drafted with the help of local attorneys and some advice from Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network Pasadena chapter, and his staff.”

The resolution’s passing was met with jubilation from the packed house, which included Council Members Victor Gordo (District 5) and Steve Madison (District 6), both of whom contributed to the lengthy period of heartfelt and anxious public comment.

Gordo, who was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and immigrated to this country with his parents at the age of five, is himself a product of PUSD schools and stands as a bright example of the power of education and hard work. Despite growing up with the fear of immigration enforcement looming behind he and his family, Gordo’s rise from Pasadena Star News paperboy to elected representative remains tangible motivation for all those children of immigrants in similar situations.

Among the several reasons listed for taking action, the resolution cites media reports from as far back as the 2015 holiday season, which claim that “at least 121 people, many of them from Central American countries, have been detained by the ICE in raids in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina … ”

Despite there being no significant operations of this manner underway here in California, the PUSD strongly believes that the president-elect’s impending policy shift, with respects to immigration enforcement, has already begun to affect Pasadena, effectively creating a “climate of heightened fear and anxiety for many district students and their families … ”

The resolution also cites as precedent the 1982 United States Supreme Court ruling Plyler v. Doe, which states that no “public school district has a basis to deny children access to education based on their immigration status … ”

The Pasadena City Council is expected to discuss the possibility of creating a form of city-wide “sanctuary” following the new year.

December 28, 2016

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