by Félix Pérez
President Donald Trump signed two executive orders this week that added to the fear among immigrant students and their families. But the orders are generating responses that indicate many people do not view the issue in Trump’s us-versus-them world view, especially when it comes to students and their families.
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“These executive orders begin a deliberate and coordinated attack on those who come to America seeking safety, freedom, and opportunity and, in the process, make America a better country,” said Utah elementary school teacher Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. “As the Trump administration threatens our students and our way of life, we will double-down on our efforts to protect the right of all students to a public-school education — no matter where they live or where they’re from.”
Defiance to Trump’s executive orders has spread.
School districts, universities declare themselves safe zones
Most recently, Nevada’s Clark County School Board, which sets policies for the sixth-largest district in the nation, voted to protect the privacy of the district’s undocumented students. “Children have to feel safe at school,” Trustee Linda Young told the Las Vegas Sun. Clark County joins a growing number of districts that have taken action to protect their students and offer their families some peace of mind. They include New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — home to the nation’s three largest school districts — as well as Seattle, Denver, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Oakland, Calif., El Paso, Texas, Portland, Ore., Santa Fe, N.M., Palo Alto, Calif., and Montgomery County, Md. The list, while unofficial, keeps growing. (Here is a sample school board resolution.)
Higher education institutions from coast to coast are vowing to safeguard their undocumented students. Portland State University, New York University and the University of Pennsylvania are some of the colleges that have decided to protect their students from federal immigration raids and searches. The University of Miami School of Law is providing free legal counsel to its immigrant students, while Arizona State University is offering free counseling to those who are experiencing anxiety over the issue. (Here is a sample college or university governing board resolution.)
Cities, elected leaders vow to protect their residents
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, flanked by state, city and community leaders, delivered impassioned comments in support of the city’s immigrant community. “I called this press conference today because I’m disturbed and angered by the news out of Washington, D.C. Washington is advancing the most destructive and unamerican threats made on America during the campaign. The latest executive orders and statements by the president about immigrants are a direct attack on Boston’s people, Boston’s strengths and Boston’s values,” adding, “If necessary, we will use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone who is targeted unjustly… They can use my office, they can use any office in this building.”
See Walsh speaking below.
While many cities had pro-immigrant policies in place before Trump’s executive orders, several mayors have recently voiced their defiance of Trump’s directives and their support of immigrant residents. Among those are the elected leaders of Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Austin, Texas, Syracuse, N.Y., and New Haven, Conn. The governors of California and Washington have also vowed to fight back against Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
U.S. Supreme Court obligates districts to serve all students
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Plyler v. Doe, ruled that public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status, race, color, or national origin. Under federal law, schools are not allowed to discriminate against children due to their racial or ethnic background, including in relation to their immigration status. Additionally, the McKinney Vento Act, which requires immediate enrollment for homeless students, applies to undocumented children. In every state, education is offered for free to all qualifying children beginning at age four or five and extending to 17 to 26 years old. While some districts enact policies that discourage enrollment or misapply laws, the Supreme Court ruling and applicable federal laws remain in effect.
As part of his executive orders, Trump also directed the federal government to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The cost of such an expansive undertaking has been pegged at $10 billion to $25 billion. For $10 billion, notes Think Progress, the nation could:
- Build over 550 new elementary schools, at $45 million each.
- Hire more than 16,500 new kindergarten and elementary school teachers and pay their salaries for the next decade.
- Pay in-state tuition for more than 93,000 students at public universities, each year for the next decade.
Here’s another take, from American Bridge, on what $25 billion could purchase: