Tucson’s largest school district has barred employees and district affiliates from asking students and families about their immigration status while on district property.
The Tucson Unified governing board voted unanimously Tuesday night to broaden the reach of its existing “immigration anti-discrimination” policy so that any TUSD vendor, school resource officer, volunteer or visitor is prohibited from “investigating and enforcing” actions related to immigration status on a TUSD campus.
Only district employees responsible for hiring are permitted to inquire about a prospective employee’s immigration status per state and federal law, under the updated policy.
The policy update also prohibits employees from making threats or negative statements to students or parents related to their immigration status.
Board President Mark Stegeman first brought the proposed update to the board in January after former state Rep. Phil Lopes brought the idea to individual board members.
Lopes worked with activist organizations Our Revolution, People Demanding Action and Progressive Democrats of America on the policy edit. Expanding TUSD’s existing anti-discrimination policy is important, Lopes said, because it gives further protection to some of the most vulnerable members in our community.
“I’ve been told that ICE has been parked outside of (TUSD) schools,” Lopes told the Star after the meeting. “If you have seen them, you have to ask — what the hell are they doing? This simply prevents exploring or exploiting just going on and looking for undocumented people (at schools).”
The updated policy also requires TUSD to develop and maintain a list of community resources offering immigration assistance, information and support to families who need it at every district site and at all community events held on district property. TUSD must refer families in need to these resources.
The governing board adopted the original immigration anti-discrimination policy in 2010, said TUSD board member Kristel Foster.
It was important for the district to show solidarity with its undocumented students then, Foster said, and it is important to reiterate that solidarity now, in the wake of the current political climate surrounding border politics.
“We know that undocumented individuals and families live in the shadows,” Foster told the Star before the meeting. “We know … when immigration issues get a lot of coverage in the press is when families have to decide whether they’re going to send their kids to school or not.”
Foster added the language barring threats concerning immigration status after the board reviewed the policy at its March meeting. Lopes welcomed her addition, but board member Rachael Sedgwick did not.
“I think that making it against policy to make threats or statements that pertain to a student or parents immigration status makes this very complicated,” Sedgwick told the Star before the meeting. “One person can perceive a statement as a threat while another person cannot see it that way.”
Stegeman along with Board Members Adelita Grijalva and Leila Counts supported Foster’s version of the policy.
Grijalva agreed that TUSD must reassure parents their schools are safe havens for their kids, regardless of their immigration status.
“That’s why we keep on bringing in policies that make sure we’re not going to have immigration enforcement on our campuses,” Grijalva told the Star. “You have to understand, we’re in Arizona. … When people bring up immigration status, that makes some people incredibly uncomfortable.”
Stegeman mirrored Grijalva’s sentiments.
“There’s really no reason in the educational setting for people to be talking about that,” Stegeman said.