It’s not the work of a few vigilantes when Immigration Customs Enforcement agents target students, said Laura Flores of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation — it’s becoming the law of the land.
In a panel discussion, “Rights, Rules and the Law,” Flores spoke about the need to make students safe and welcome. She said Trump’s administration has eliminated the priorities for deportation, making anyone undocumented a target. That’s 12 million people, and Flores pointed out that doesn’t just affect those 12 million, but their families and communities as well.
The Berkeley Council of Classified Employees’ Jocelyn Foreman sees those people every day at her job as a family engagement specialist. What she and others like her do makes a big difference, she said, by offering students and their families support.
Transgender students also need to feel safe, said Rick Oculto of the Transform California Project. One way is calling them by the pronoun they prefer. To drive that point home, Oculto talked about what happens at the dog park if you refer to a male dog, “He’s such a good dog!”
“The owner says, ‘It’s a she,’ and you change it immediately, right?” Oculto said. “That’s for a dog. And we’re talking about people here.”
The California Labor Foundation’s Angie Wei says her organization does trainings on what to do if ICE shows up. They tell people not to open the door and to only give their name — easy to tell people, but hard for them to do when someone with a gun is at the door. The terror in immigrant communities is palpable, Wei says.
“I’m filled with fear about how we come out on the other side of this,” she said. “The responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders to create a whole new generation of unionists and activists and fighters for justice.”
Wei also talked about SB 54, legislation to create a sanctuary state and AB 450, which would protect undocumented immigrants from workplace raids.
In a related workshop, César Moreno Pérez with AFT Human Rights & Community Relations encouraged people to do what they can to support immigrant rights — calling legislators, talking to colleagues, doing trainings, and using resources on Share My Lesson.
“Federal law says schools must accept all students,” he said. “Diversity is our greatest strength. We need to have welcoming spaces for everyone.”
»Learn more on CFT’s Safe Haven resources page.