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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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California Assembly Beefs Up Protection of Undocumented Students

With the passage of two bills Thursday, the California state Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to providing education to all – including undocumented immigrants.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – With the passage of two bills Thursday, the California state Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to providing education to all – including undocumented immigrants.

Assembly Bill 699 will add legal protections for undocumented students attending K-12 public schools in California by barring immigration authorities from entering campuses without a warrant and permission from school officials. The measure also prevents school staff from collecting information about immigration status from students or their guardians and bans school officials from cooperating with federal authorities.

“The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 1982 decision Plyler v. Doe, upheld the right of undocumented children to free public education,” Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, and the bill’s author, said. “ICE agents do not belong in our classrooms. All children have a right to be educated and to receive that education in a safe environment, no matter where they were born. Children should not be afraid to come to school and parents should not be afraid to send their children to school.”

O’Donnell said he recognizes a troubling trend in his measure: the increasing problem of bullying directed at children who are immigrants or look like they might be. He cites incidences in the north state city of Redding, in which a student handed out fake deportation papers to Latino students, and a Sacramento-area principal who had to instruct K-8 students to stop saying things that were racist or hurtful. His bill provides guidelines for school staff to address bullying and hate speech.

“Our students have a right to come to school and not hear racist or hate language,” Leonardo Da Vinci K-8 School principal Devon Davis said in a November interview with the Sacramento Bee. “Unfortunately, the recent political environment and the media have presented children with a dialogue that has not been shared, to my knowledge, on this campus before.”

Davis’ campus even had to deal with an assassination threat by some of its students shortly after the November election. A group of fifth-grade boys were overheard talking before school about “killing Trump,” according to Janet Weeks, spokeswoman for Sacramento City Unified School District.

“The principal called the boys into her office and talked to them about their inappropriate and disturbing behavior,” she said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee.

To ensure protection of college students, the Assembly also passed Assembly Bill 21, written by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose. AB 21 directs college officials to develop and enforce policies to protect undocumented students, including providing access to free legal representation to those who are faced with deportation orders.

"With great risks of changes to immigration policies and enforcement at the federal level, it is more important than ever for us to work to protect our students and ensure that, regardless of their immigration status, they may continue to take advantage of the education to which they are entitled, free from intimidation or risk of a loss of access to resources and programs that other students enjoy,” Kalra said in a statement.

In the event a student is deported, AB 21 mandates they will not lose financial aid, waivers of nonresident tuition, housing stipends and any other benefit if they are able to return to the United States and re-enroll in school.

After the bill's passage, Kalra said, "“I am very pleased that AB 21 passed out of the Assembly yesterday. At a time when all that California has worked for to create an inclusive, welcoming community could be cast aside by the new federal administration, it must take all necessary steps to protect our most vulnerable populations. AB 21 will help to ensure that all students, regardless of their immigration status, have access to their constitutional right to due process and  are not forced to sacrifice their financial aid.”

Both bills are in response to potential changes in federal immigration policies and are intended to thwart efforts by President Donald Trump to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

These bills add to the rising tide of measures that have passed the Assembly or the state Senate intended to “Resist Trump” in recent weeks.

Categories / Education, Government

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