The Salt Lake City Board of Education voted Tuesday night in favor of two resolutions that reaffirmed its commitment to protecting its immigrant students and families as the Trump administration ramps up immigration enforcement.
The board voted to renew support for its 2017 Safe School Resolution which outlined practices to protect immigrant students and their personal information. The resolution also comes with a list of answers to frequently asked immigration-related questions.
Nate Salazar proposed the “Resolution for the Protection of Children” earlier this summer as a response to immigration raids including at Mississippi meat processing plants where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apprehended nearly 700 undocumented workers.
Salazar said these and other incidents targeting immigrant communities have created tension and fear in some families.
“Our families and our kids, our community at large, needs to know that we are supporting and standing with those who do have this fear,” Salazar said in an interview.
Federal and state laws prohibit U.S. schools from inquiring about a student’s or their family’s immigration status during the admission process. Schools are also generally blocked from sharing students’ personal information with immigration officials.
The Salt Lake City School District’s new resolution goes one step further by denouncing family separations and the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers at the southern border.
“The Board of Education recognizes the right of the U.S. to secure its borders, but as individuals dedicated to improving the lives of children, the Board deplores the use of family separation, which can cause irreparable harm and lifelong trauma to children, as a tool of immigration policy aimed at deterring people seeking safety,” the resolution states.
Three community members, including Amy Dominguez with the local immigrant activist group Unidad Inmigrante, and Karla Motta with Centro Cívico Mexicano, a Latino cultural center, spoke in favor of the resolution at the Tuesday’s meeting.
Motta referenced Utah’s Latino leaders such as state Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, Utah’s Juvenile Court Judge Andy Valdez and the late Sen. Pete Suazo, Utah’s first Latino state senator, at the Tuesday night school board meeting. Motta said those individuals became who they were because they grew up in a safe environment where they could concentrate on their education.
“Our children do not need to be concerned with the fear of families being torn apart and relatives being held in detention and perhaps being sent back to violent environments from where they came from,” Motta said.
Dominguez challenged the board to go a step further and create a team that can respond to families facing deportations. She said other school districts in Denver, Los Angeles and Miami have written resolutions that have taken such actions or named their schools “safe zones” for immigrant students and their families.
The school board said at its Aug. 6 meeting that the district did not have a specific policy on how it would respond if a child, parent or family member is detained or deported by ICE officials.
The board said it would research what such a policy would require.