Ensuring that all students have the right to a public-school education—no matter where they live or where they’re from—is our primary responsibility. That makes us social justice warriors as well as educators. In that spirit, we are championing the cause of undocumented students who are at risk of deportation.
Today’s climate means we must do even more to mobilize against and resist actions that diminish the dignity of these vulnerable students and deny them the education they deserve. Many school districts are making their campuses “safe zones” for immigrant students and communities. You can be part of this movement
To help you, we’ve created sample resolutions and a policy template that boards can adopt. The goal is to reassure immigrant students and families who fear raids by immigration law enforcement agents, and are concerned that Donald Trump’s dangerous rhetoric has made them targets of hate. They need to know we are standing with them on the front lines and will always be their advocates.
For more information, take a look at this list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about safe zones and then join your local NEA association in lobbying the local board to pass a resolution. A sample resolution appropriate for a college or university board is also available.
Incredulous as we all may be, yes: It’s actually come to this. Trump has promised to deport undocumented immigrants en masse, build a wall along the entire length of the border with Mexico and create a registry of all Muslim immigrants.
And if Trump succeeds in having Senator Jeff Sessions confirmed as Attorney General, he’ll be closer to achieving his goals. Sessions wants to end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program and refuses to distance himself from anti-immigrant organizations such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded by John Tanton, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the “architect of the modern anti-immigration movement.”
We can’t let anyone get in the way of our efforts to make every school and campus a more inclusive, welcoming place.
Our safe zone measures build on other actions we’ve taken. Earlier this month, we threw our support behind the BRIDGE Act, a bill to extend three years of protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and DACA-eligible DREAMers, people who came to the United States as children. It’s a short-term fix, but it is a step in the right direction.
In November, we co-hosted a webinar with the National Immigration Law Center, Know Your Rights, to help educators prepare to assist their students, families and communities in this environment.
Before then, NEA locals across the nation were engaging in activism on behalf of undocumented students. Educators in Durham, N.C., for instance, held rallies, contacted the Department of Homeland Security, traveled to Washington, D.C. and took part in coalition activities to help free Wildin Acosta, a teenager who was seized by immigration officers last year while on his way to school.
What you’ve done is proof of the love and commitment that make you the amazing people you are. A safe zone resolution—which, by the way, requires no additional expenditures or staff—gives you important support to keep going.
Even if your community already has taken steps to reassure immigrant students and families, passing a resolution can bolster those actions. If your town or city is behind the curve—or even worse, hostile to immigrants—your work could push them in the right direction.
The resolutions are legally defensible and student focused, with language closely tied to Plyler v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing that all students have access to K-12 education regardless of immigration status.They also highlight the role of the school district or college campus in protecting that right and emphasize that school is “a place for students to learn, to thrive and to seek assistance, information and support related to any immigration law enforcement that interferes with their learning experience.”
Importantly, the resolutions assert that you have the academic freedom to discuss immigration enforcement in your class and talk about the steps your school district or college campus is taking. Although we cannot completely protect our students from ICE enforcement, we can make sure our voices are heard loud and clear—especially by our students.
The issues we’re facing are far too serious for any of us to be silent.