By Karen Stokes
The Milwaukee Public School District voted to designate the district as a safe haven for undocumented students.
The resolution, passed unanimously, reaffirms the district’s policy to discourage the disruption of the educational environment. Immigration enforcement activity will not be conducted on campus.
“This is a very proud moment for this district and for this community,” Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver said.
This new policy outlines the steps the district will take to ensure students and families that any actions that might be taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on school grounds will be opposed by all legal means available.
The district is also working with county and city representatives to establish safe haven perimeters and create immigration resource centers in every school.
“If you were to take out all the ideology, this is law. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Plyer v. Doe that no public district has a basis to deny children access to education based on their immigration status. During this uncertain time, it is imperative to make certain our children have the opportunity to be successful. The district’s actions to uphold that law will help keep our schools as places of learning and assure that our families will feel safe bringing their children to school.” said Dr. Driver.
MPS students and members of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES!), the youth division of Voces de la Frontera, an organization that champions immigrant rights and social justice issues, united to encourage board members to designate the MPS district as a safe haven.
Cendi Trujillo, youth organizer for YES! that the resolution was a way for students to protect themselves and their families. They are working on a rapid response plan to further protect and empower families in the event of an immigration raid.
“We do not want students to get out of school and the parents are gone,” Trujillo said.
School districts in other states have passed similar safe haven resolutions to ease the fears of students and their families following Donald Trump’s mandate on illegal immigration.
On January 25th, Trump signed an executive order to crack down on what is considered sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants.
The executive order threatens to withdraw federal funding for cities designated by the Department of Homeland Security as a Sanctuary Jurisdiction. In March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that sanctuary cities would no longer receive Department of Justice grants.
Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke has made comments confirming his commitment to Trump’s immigration mandate and will move forward on an immigration enforcement strategy.
“President Trump made it clear with his Executive Order on enforcement of our immigration laws. No more catch and release of criminal illegal aliens,” Sheriff Clarke said in a prepared statement. “I will assign as many deputies to this initiative as I can. It is a public safety priority.”
The latest Pew Research report estimates that approximately 85,000 undocumented immigrants live in Wisconsin.
The MPS resolution was co-sponsored by board Vice Chairman Larry Miller and school board member Tatiana Joseph who reportedly said at the board meeting that as a child, her family, after coming to America from Costa Rica, lived for years undocumented.
“This resolution is for every undocumented immigrant student, not just Hispanic,” said Trujillo. “Everyone has a right to an education.”