The Sacramento City Unified School District will launch a campaign Tuesday to protect undocumented students in the face of deportation threats and attacks targeting immigrants.
The board of trustees adopted a resolution in December declaring district schools “safe havens” that are off-limits to immigration authorities and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Board member Jessie Ryan said the resolution and the campaign are intended to reassure undocumented students, teachers and their families that they need not fear coming to school. The campaign seeks to make community and legal resources available to families at school sites, Ryan said.
Information will be provided in the five languages, in addition to English, that are most spoken in the district: Spanish, Hmong, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Russian.
The district has been working with groups in the community, and two forums are scheduled. The first, a “know your rights” information session, will be held at 5:30 p.m. March 30 at McGeorge School of Law, 3200 Fifth Ave., Sacramento. It will cover people’s legal rights when stopped by immigration officers, ways to obtain legal status, and how people facing deportation can protect their children and property.
A presentation on immigrants rights and a panel discussion will be held from 10 a.m. to noon April 22 at the Serna Center, 5735 47th Ave., Sacramento.
Many schools in the district have reported overwhelming fear among students and their families since President Donald Trump’s election, Ryan said. Rumors that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are conducting enforcement operations in the community have been rampant, she said.
Shortly after the election, Ryan said, third-graders at one school were refusing to go outside for lunch or recess for fear they would be picked up by immigration agents, Ryan said, noting that one child had packed her suitcase.
“The worst case scenario would be children afraid to show up for school because they fear deportation,” Ryan said.
As part of the campaign, people will have an opportunity to sign pledge cards to help create a safe environment for students and their families.
The district does not collect citizenship data on students. In 2015-16, nearly one-third of Sacramento City Unified students were English language learners or non-native speakers who can speak English fluently, according to state figures.
Although students and their families are not asked about their citizenship status, Ryan said the district is looking at ways to allow them to voluntarily disclose their status to seek help.
In addition to students, Ryan said, there are teachers in the district who have been protected under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy. The policy allows certain undocumented residents who came to the United States as children to receive deferred action from deportation for renewable periods of two years and to apply for work permits.
Ryan said the district has been working with Sacramento city and county officials, including Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Councilman Eric Guerra, and county Supervisors Phil Serna and Patrick Kennedy, on coordinated efforts to assist families. Trustee Mai Vang has been appointed to serve on a city task force looking to strengthen Sacramento’s sanctuary status and to provide legal aid for undocumented residents, Ryan said.