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San Diego Unified School Board says students living in U.S. illegally are safe at schools

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Posted at 6:14 AM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-15 09:14:17-05

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education assured students who are living in the U.S. illegally that they are safe on school campuses.

The Tuesday night meeting's agenda included an update to a December resolution affirming the district's commitment to protecting the rights of all students and their families, regardless of immigration status and that every student has a civil right to a free public education.

San Diego Consul General of Mexico Marcela Celorio told the board her office began reaching out to Mexicans in November to let them know what the consulate can do for the community.

"I am confident and I trust and am putting all my faith that the institutions will work and are working and I respect the rule of law," Celorio said. "I think it is very important to comply with our obligations and also to exercise our rights."

Some students have already expressed stress and anxiety since President Donald Trump took office, according to Trustee Kevin Beiser, who said it has created some socio-emotional challenges.

"A lot of fear and anxiety is going on as we hear ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids going on all over the state of California, where they're standing out on the sidewalks in front of schools," said Beiser, who did not offer any proof to back his allegation.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Monday recent "targeted enforcement operations" were aimed at criminals and people who violated immigration laws.

"These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation's immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges," Kelly said.

Trump echoed those comments Monday.

"We're actually taking people that are criminals -- very, very hardened criminals in some cases, with a tremendous track record of abuse and problems -- and we're getting them out," Trump said in a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House.

"And that's what I said I would do."

As part of the resolution, the board directed the district general counsel's office to issue a legal memorandum to all students and staff affirming the protections for students and their families who are living in the U.S. illegally under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding their rights to attend public schools.

Those memos were sent Tuesday and included instructions for staff to not allow ICE agents onto school property without the permission of school police.

The letter to families included passages reminding them of their rights.

"Schools may not discriminate against undocumented students, cannot request information regarding immigration status, and cannot adopt policies or practices that discourage participation by undocumented students or their families, or lead to the exclusion of students based on their or their parents, or guardians' actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status," the letter said.

The letter started by referring to the recent presidential election without mentioning Trump by name.

"We understand there is much anxiety in our community regarding the potential that the incoming administration will increase deportation efforts," the letter said.

"The purpose of this letter is to assure you that the San Diego Unified School District is committed to preserving the constitutional right of every student to an education, regardless of immigration status."

The letter also assures families that the district will not permit immigration raids on campuses, which have been considered off limits to immigration enforcement since 2011.

"The district is also committed to maintaining the confidentiality rights of students under the Family Educational Rights & Protection Act. This law prohibits the release of student records without parental consent, including information that might indicate immigration status, unless mandated by law," according to the letter.

"Therefore, the district will not release your records to ICE unless we are issued a court order or subpoena."

The letter, signed by Superintendent Cindy Marten, suggests families seek independent legal counsel if they have any questions about legal rights and the district's Family and Community Engagement Department "can provide you with information regarding public interest organizations that may be able to provide you with assistance."