The Los Angeles school board on Tuesday unanimously approved a set of policies that board members said would provide families with a higher level of protection from federal immigration raids.
Among the safeguards in the sweeping set of guidelines: No immigration officers will be allowed on campus without clearance from the superintendent of schools, who will consult with district lawyers. Until that happens, they won’t be let in, even if they arrive with a legally valid subpoena.
The nation’s second-largest school system has been loud and clear since Donald Trump was elected president in November and vowed to strictly enforce immigration laws. The board approved a similar resolution in February of 2016, which also called for the superintendent’s intervention as well as for mandatory training for staff and workshops for families.
Board member Monica Garcia, who also sponsored the resolution, said the new guidelines clarify the district’s position, “offering greater detail.”
“These are commitments we have already made,” she said.
Backers said the latest resolution was the most comprehensive to date, developed by the American Civil Liberties Union over several months.
“This is an important opportunity for LAUSD to be a model for the state and for the nation,” said Sylvia Torres-Guillén, director of education equity for ACLU of California.
The resolution includes language partly blaming U.S. actions for driving people across the border: “Migration to this country is often propelled by social, economic, and political factors and native country conditions, which result partly from U.S. government and corporate policies and interests, and thus immigrants and their families are entitled to compassionate and humane treatment in this country.”
The resolution also does not let the Obama administration off the hook. “The record number of deportations in recent years,” it states, “has tragically broken apart loving families, devastated communities, and caused widespread fear.”
Millions of people are living in the United States without legal authorization. Many are parents or relatives of children, who have a long-established right to attend public schools regardless of their immigration status.
Torres-Guillén said it’s important that school staff know exactly what to say and do if immigration officers arrive. They are to tell them simply to keep out. Then it will be up to senior officials to assess the validity of credentials and any legal authority to enter district property or obtain information.
Anxiety about immigration raids in the vicinity of schools rose in Los Angeles in February, when a local father, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, was taken into custody after dropping off one of his children at school, with another of his children in the car with him.
Before the vote, speakers testified about why they felt the resolution was necessary.
“My families and students are living in a constant state of fear,” said Principal Sascha Robinett of PUC Milagro Charter School in Lincoln Heights.
Angelina Calderon, a local resident who graduated from L.A. Unified, said her nephews and goddaughter are in families of “mixed status.” Some relatives are legal, some not.
“These children should be engaged in learning and playing,” she said. “Instead, they are surrounded by fear.
“My nephews know they shouldn’t open the door,” she said, “because la migra could be there.”