Last year, candidate Donald Trump promised that one of his top priorities as president would be to deport an estimated 11 million immigrants. Trump’s election sent stress levels through schoolhouse roofs. Staff and parents at Berkeley’s Longfellow Middle School organized a “Know Your Rights” forum within weeks of the November vote. About 200 people attended, drawn largely by immigration lawyers who provided participants with possible legal remedies.
“The whole school community came together and asked how we could help these kids and their parents,” said Carol Perez, whose son attends Longfellow.
They formed a rapid response committee, and if there is an ICE raid, families have volunteered to host kids and parents facing deportation. Perez is a member of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees and works as a parent engagement counselor at Washington and Oxford elementary schools. “My job, my role, my heart is to protect these students,” she said. At Washington, Perez said, a teacher helped young students create a Muslim Students Union. Arabic is the third most widely spoken language in Berkeley schools. “Everyone is welcome in our schools.”
Berkeley is a sanctuary city that offers legal support for immigrants and a hotline to address rumors about ICE raids that spread on social media.
The nearby Central Valley farming communities are home to an estimated 331,584 undocumented immigrants and 224,958 U.S.-born children with an undocumented parent.
In Turlock, the school board recently reaffirmed that the unified district does not solicit, collect, or maintain information on students’ immigration status, and that proof of residency is all that’s required to enroll a student, according to Education Code Section 48204.1. The resolution directed the superintendent to support a safe and secure learning environment for all students.