It is in this context that Los Angeles Unified, Durham Public Schools, and San Francisco Unified School Districts made announcements condemning the raids. In LAUSD’s case, officials promised they would not allow ICE agents on their campuses to investigate students, even while ICE maintains that it will not attempt to. The concerned school districts were joined in their opposition to the raids by officials from communities throughout the country, including the mayors of New Haven and Philadelphia, and city council members in Chicago.
Early adopters of protective policies for undocumented students include the San Francisco Unified School District. In a 2007 resolution states, “If parents and or students have questions about their immigration status, school personnel will not refer them to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (‘ICE’),” and “District personnel will not make unreasonable inquiries from a student or his/her parents for the purpose of exposing the immigration status of the child or his/her family.” However, SFUSD public-relations manager Heidi Anderson said, “Overall, it has been our experience that San Francisco ICE officials stay away from our schools.”
The gap in preparedness between schools, then, has more to do with the possibility of district officials unintentionally breaking the law by sharing information, than with the unlikelihood of widespread conspiracy to deport students. Los Angeles Unified School District’s chief attorney Dave Holmquist addressed the issue directly in comments to the LA School Report. On creating a procedure for answering ICE information requests, he told the Report, “I’m concerned that principals in our schools will have to make judgment calls without input from [Counsel’s] office, and that is not the best thing to do … we want principals to comply with the law.” Shannon Haber, communications director for LAUSD said that at this point, Holmquist’s concerns are purely theoretical.
The existence of federal law and even a city’s sanctuary policy may not translate to individual awareness and compliance. In 2009, SFUSD passed another resolution, containing a key admission that the Board “recently learned that employees and agents of the City and County of San Francisco have been reporting undocumented students of the District to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Officials without providing youth with due process.” This was apparently related to the city’s 2008 ordinance requiring police to report all undocumented youths to ICE when arrested, even if they did not receive a conviction. This mirrored secure communities practices, and is one of many episodes in the city’s ongoing conflict over sanctuary city policies.
SFUSD now says it actively educates officials and teachers on their responsibilities regarding undocumented students. This practice appears unusual after a survey of school district websites in affected areas. While a search for the term “Immigration and Customs Enforcement” on SFUSD’s site brought up relevant Board resolutions, the same search agent produced only employment-related forms for Atlanta Public Schools, and zero relevant results for Dallas Public School District, Chicago Public Schools and DC Public Schools. A search of Durham Public Schools’ site revealed a statement opposing the raids, but no relevant policies. A lack of online availability does not rule out the existence of these policies. (At the time of this writing, some districts in Georgia and North Carolina had not responded to interview requests.)