Fresno Unified School District board members unanimously passed a resolution declaring district schools a “safe place” for undocumented students.
Students, parents and community members crowded into the district’s downtown headquarters Wednesday night to voice their opinions on whether schools should work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The resolution forbids school staff members from asking the immigration status of any student unless required by law.
The “safe place” resolution also says the district will not participate in any immigration enforcement activities, and ICE agents will not be allowed to enter schools without complying with legal requirements. The resolution also says the district will not release a student to ICE agents without the consent of a parent; school resource officers will not enforce violations of immigration law; and schools will help provide resources for families facing deportation.
The resolution passed easily among board members. Member Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas said she would like to see additional training for staff members dealing directly with children from immigrant families.
Despite board president Brooke Ashjian’s previous uncertainty on the matter, Ashjian nodded his head in agreement Wednesday with each person who came to the podium to speak in favor of the resolution.
“I’ve always believed that life begins at conception, and I don’t believe it ends on legal or illegal status,” Ashjian said. “It would be my privilege to be able to sign this (the resolution) for the children.”
Board member Cal Johnson said it was easy for him to vote yes. He said he sees history repeating itself by denying children equal rights because of their nationality.
“When you look at history, we see this kind of thing happening all the time,” he said. “We’ve had a lapse in memory.”
He asked the audience to show empathy. “It could be your family rounded up next,” he said.
Samuel Molina with Mi Familia Vota said he hopes the passing of the resolution by Fresno Unified, the fourth-largest district in the state, will convince other smaller school districts to follow in its footsteps.
“I also hope that this will also lead to better (immigration) policies at the city council level and at the county level,” he said.
Laura Alamillo brought her 7-year-old daughter, Paz Martinez Alamillo, to the meeting and spoke to the board. Alamillo said she is a researcher in the field of immigrant bilingual children.
“Children who feel their families are being threatened experience stress and anxiety,” she said.
Alamillo said she hopes passing the resolution will make teachers feel OK about providing the support without feeling political.
“This resolution provides a space for all children to not be worried or concerned, whether it be for child or their friend,” she said.