On March 7th, the Sacramento City Unified School District launched a campaign that defends undocumented students from deportation in the face of ICE agents. This came along soon after the Sacramento City Unified School District Trustees began hearing from teachers, parents, and administrators that children are terrified of being deported or even their family members being deported.
In December, the board of trustees came up with a resolution declaring SCUSD schools “Safe Havens” to any immigration agency and anti-immigration rhetoric.
Board member Jessie Ryan said that the campaign aims to reassure the undocumented students in the district that going to school is completely safe and that the school is there to protect the students if need be. Ryan said that shortly after the presidential election, third graders at one school were too afraid of going outside during recess because they felt that they would be deported.
“The worst case scenario would be children afraid of showing up to school because of fear of deportation,” said Ryan.
It is estimated that in California alone there are around 2,350,000 undocumented immigrants, making up about 6% of the population. Around 1,850,000 of those undocumented immigrants are in the workforce.
This philosophy is gaining traction in other districts all over the state. San Francisco Unified School District says they are “developing a rapid response protocol to support children and families,” if law enforcement is in or around schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District voted in February to make their schools “Safe Havens” and create centers of support for undocumented families threatened by immigration.
“Personally I believe that Safe Haven schools is an amazing thing to any student that wants to extend their education,” says Angel Perez, a student at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento.“This gives them the ability to feel more comfortable accomplishing their dreams.”
For some though, the idea of a “Safe haven” school isn’t sitting well. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones believes legislation like this that would prevent local agencies from entering schools would be invalid because it conflicts with federal law.
“I have a strong belief that it violates federal law,” says Jones. “Every sheriff is going to be in a very difficult position to decide what they personally are going to do should this pass.”
“It’s important for Sacramento City Unified to reiterate that we’re focused on the education of every child who resides in our district, regardless of their immigration status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and that’s what this resolution does,” said SCUSD Trustee Jay Hansen.
“I was brought in as a child by my parents,” said one undocumented SCUSD, too afraid to give their name due to the fear of deportation. “I was brought here for a better life than the one I possibly would’ve had if left in Mexico. One day my best friend and I were walking to the corner store, my best friend also being undocumented. And he told me he’d wait outside as I entered and got whatever I was going to get. I came back out a few minutes later to the sight of police detaining my best friend.”
“I just remember not being able to do anything,” the undocumented student recalled. “Just slowly walking off because I knew I would be deported as well if I did anything. It was horrible, we made eye contact. I don’t know what he could’ve done while I was in the store but that was the last time I saw my best friend.”
Only time will tell how this new legislation from the Sacramento City Unified School District will turn out.