I noticed many missing faces in my classes Thursday, Feb. 16. When I asked my students during first period where the rest of my class was, they told me, “Today is ‘A Day Without Immigrants.'”
There has been heightened concern among my students and their families as a result of our new President’s policies on immigration. One of my Muslim students told me how relieved she was that her mother arrived back from Morocco only days before President Trump signed an executive order to ban people from certain majority-Muslim countries from coming into the U.S. My Hispanic students have asked me for documentation from the school that includes their picture and personal information to prove residency and to show they are students attending a public high school.
A Day Without Immigrants was in protest of President Trump’s administration and highlighted the need to, “expand policies that stop criminalizing communities of color,” as stated by Erika Almiron, the director of a Philadelphia-based nonprofit.
As an educator, I was deeply saddened on My Day Without Immigrants. Our President’s policies have faces attached to them, and these faces were missing from my classroom. My students are afraid and are calling out for help. We are living in “The Land of Plenty,” and we are “A Nation of Immigrants;” yet, we still have not learned to share. As a nation, we have taken a step backward.
Because my students and their families need information regarding their rights, I contacted Maryam Judar, Executive Director and Community Lawyer from Citizen Advocacy Center, regarding the deportation issue. Ms. Judar stresses the need for school policies that protect our students. Below is information she provided – please share.
I am so sorry to hear that students are foregoing school because of the issue of deportation. A few things:
(A) I know there were rumors about immigration checkpoints on CTA, but the CTA quelled these by posting on their website what is really happening (random checks for explosives).
So it may be rumors that you could check for their veracity.
(B) I think that there needs to be policies developed at schools to protect students:
Berkeley School District in California just passed a policy, and I have attached it here, and there is the page on their website where they talk about it.
“It is the general policy of the District not to allow any individual or organization to enter a school site if the educational setting would be disrupted by that visit. Because the Governing Board believes that ICE activities in and around schools, early education centers, and adult school facilities would constitute a severe disruption to the learning environment and educational setting for students, any request by ICE to any District personnel to visit a school site shall be immediately forwarded to the Superintendent for review and consultation with legal counsel, to ensure the safety of all students, as well as compliance with Plyler v. Doe and other applicable state and federal laws.”
I think that we need to get our school districts to adopt this kind of policy. I am cc’ing Terry Pastika here, one of our board members and former long-time Executive Director who has opened a sister organization in Berkeley, and she brought the new policy to my attention.
(C) As for immigrant students’ right to attend public schools, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plyler vs. Doe (457 U.S. 202 (1982)) that undocumented children and young adults have the same right to attend public primary and secondary schools as do U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Like other children, undocumented students are obliged under state law to attend school until they reach a mandated age. As a result of the Plyler ruling, public schools may not:
- Deny admission to a student during initial enrollment or at any other time on the basis of undocumented status.
- Treat a student differently to determine residency.
- Engage in any practices to “chill” the right of access to school.
- Require students or parents to disclose or document their immigration status.
- Make inquiries of students or parents that may expose their undocumented status.
- Require social security numbers from all students, as this may expose undocumented status.
Students without social security numbers should be assigned a number generated by the school. Adults without social security numbers who are applying for a free lunch and/or breakfast program on behalf of a student need only indicate on the application that they do not have a social security number.
Changes in the F-1 (Student) Visa Program do not alter the Plyler obligations to undocumented children. These changes apply only to students who apply for a student visa from outside the U.S.
Finally, school personnel — especially building principals and those involved with student intake activities — should be aware that they have no legal obligation to enforce U.S. immigration laws. (U.S. Supreme Court, 1982)
I’ve attached an English/Spanish flyer that discusses these issues, which I found from the Oregon State Dept. of Ed.
(D) The attached Dear Colleague letter from the DOJ and DOE that also outlines students’ rights.
Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.
Executive Director/Community Lawyer
Citizen Advocacy Center
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~Dr. Seuss
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