Schools are meant to be safe places for all children, including those who are undocumented.
That’s the message Albuquerque Public Schools sent to principals and counselors earlier this month, after activists asked the district to publicize its stance on immigrant students in the wake of President Donald Trump’s tough rhetoric.
Organizers from Listo Nuevo México, a coalition of Latino groups, first met with district administrators in December, then brought a group of roughly 25 people to address the Board of Education during a meeting earlier this month.
APS formed a partnership with the coalition and crafted an email, sent Jan. 17, to highlight three district policies:
Student protection: “Immigration officials shall not be permitted on school campus at any time….”
Safe Schools and Relations with Law Enforcement Authorities: “The Albuquerque Public Schools provides admission and equal educational opportunities to all students that meet enrollment requirements, regardless of their immigration status or national origin.”
Immigrant Students Regardless of Documented Status: “The United States Supreme Court has also ruled that citizenship status cannot be used to deny public school admission to school age children…”
In addition, the letter lists community resources for immigrant students, including El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, an immigrants’ rights and workers’ justice group; New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, a legal aid organization; and Encuentro, which offers educational opportunities for immigrant families.
The organizations are all part of Listo Nuevo México, along with New Mexico Dream Team, a group of undocumented students and allies.
Katarina Sandoval, APS’ associate superintendent for equity and access, stressed that the district did not pass any new policies for immigrants, but wanted to reassure local families that protections are already in place.
“There is a certain level of fear and anxiety that there might be increased deportations,” Sandoval said. “We just don’t know – the rhetoric is such that it’s unknown at this time.”
APS does not track students’ immigration status, so it is unclear how many undocumented children are enrolled in the district.
During an equity committee meeting held Wednesday, board member Peggy Muller-Aragón said it is upsetting to think that immigrant children are worried about the future.
“Everyone is welcome in this country no matter who is in the White House,” she added. “We are a country of immigrants, and they are welcome, and nobody, besides people who are criminals, should feel afraid of anything. We need to make sure our kids know that.”
APS administrators are planning a deeper discussion of the policies during upcoming meetings with principals and counselors.
Rachel LaZar, executive director at El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, told the Journal she is happy to partner with the district.
“In these times of uncertainty, we think it is important for parents and students and educators to be aware that these policies exist,” she said.