By PAUL LEVIKOW
City News Service
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Educational leaders from throughout San Diego County today declared local school campuses as sanctuaries against any efforts by federal officials to deport students who are in the country illegally.
They also announced that they have signed on as a friend of the court supporting Santa Clara County's challenge to President Donald Trump's executive order targeting sanctuary jurisdictions.
"The federal government is attempting to force local governments, including local education institutions, to become an arm in their attempt to round up, detain and deport people in our communities and we have made it very clear to the federal government that we refuse to participate in that type of action," said Richard Barrera, president of the San Diego Unified School District's Board of Education. "In our schools, every day, we hear about young people, children, our students who are afraid that when they get home, their parents are not going to be there. We have parents, who fear that when they send their kids to school, they might not see their kids at the end of the day."
Barrera was joined at a news conference by officials from the Sweetwater Union High School District, the San Diego Community College District, the Southwestern Community College Board of Trustees, the Chula Vista Elementary School District Board of Education, the San Ysidro School District Board, the San Diego County Office of Education Board of Trustees and the San Diego office of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"This executive order is already causing fear and anxiety on our campuses and a decline in attendance of undocumented students or students of families that may be undocumented," said Paula Hall, vice president of the Sweetwater Union High School District Board of Trustees. "Sweetwater is putting students first."
The Southwestern Community College board passed a resolution that their police will not detain, question, or arrest any student based on their personal characteristics, according to Trustee Roberto Alcantar.
"Many Dreamers are moving back into the shadows for fear of this administration," Alcantar said. "Statewide in the community college system, we have seen a 40 percent reduction in the number of Dreamers applying for financial aid. That's 40 percent of students giving up on their dreams and hopes to get an education because of fear of this administration." The San Ysidro School District, located along the U.S./Mexico border, has an obligation to support its students, according to Antonio Martinez, a trustee on the board.
"No kid should come to school with fear of being deported or their parents being deported," Martinez said. "We will protect all of our children. Every child has a right for quality education."
Chula Vista Elementary School Board of Education member Eduardo Reyes said his district passed a resolution that provides protection to all students regardless of their religion, their origin, how they look, what language they speak, where they come from, their sexual orientation, or their immigration status.
"We will fight and take whatever measures necessary ... to ensure that our kids are protected, that our kids' rights are protected as well and that we make sure that what we provide for our kids and their families is a place where they know they are going to be safe and they are going to be secure," Reyes said.
Trump signed an executive order in January that would allow the federal government to cut funding to cities or other so-called sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to help enforce immigration laws. Santa Clara and San Francisco counties filed a lawsuit to block implementation of the executive order. The judge in that case invited other jurisdictions to file friends of the court briefs. Dozens of educational institutions and school districts from throughout California have done so.
"It would be unconscionable and, we believe, unconstitutional for the federal government to attempt to punish school districts for refusing to participate in their attempt to attack our community by withholding funds designed to support students in need," Barrera said.
While the news conference focused on Hispanic students and their families, there is also fear and anxiety among African-American students, SDUSD Trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne told City News Service.
"They look around and are afraid of what might happen to their friends," she said.