By Beth Treffeisen
Mayoral candidate and Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson called for a hearing on a resolution to affirm sanctuary schools in the Boston Public School (BPS) system at the last week’s Boston City Council hearing.
The hearing will reaffirm that students, parents, and staff in the Boston Public School system have the right to safe education, without the worry of detention by immigration officials.
“Boston is the birth place of the American Revolution and I believe we are at the start of the next,” said Jackson. “We must lead in these times… silence is complicacy.”
The city already has protection for illegal immigrants under the 2014 Boston Trust Act. It prohibits Boston police from detaining anyone based on their immigration status unless they have a criminal warrant.
This comes in light of the recent presidential executive orders and the increased safety concerns and fear of deportation amongst immigrants in Boston. Currently, BPS does not ask for or require proof of legal immigration status upon enrollment or at other times when student or family data is collected.
Jackson argued that if BPS schools do not have sanctuary status, many families might fear bringing their children to school at all.
“We received countless calls from teachers, parents, students and school nurses,” said Jackson. “Young people are having anxiety issues in schools. They don’t know whether they should be attending school or not because they don’t know if they will be deported.”
The resolution will limit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from entering BPS sites except with explicit permission from the Superintendent and the District Attorney.
It will also refuse all voluntary information sharing with ICE across all aspects of BPS to the fullest extent possible under the law.
The resolution will train BPS teachers, administrators and staff to understand the existing City and BPS immigration policy and notify in multiple languages BPS families to fully inform them of their rights in the District.
BPS is home to children from 139 countries and nearly one in two students speak a language other than English at home.
At the hearing, City Councilor Ayanna Pressely stated that she agreed in these efforts and believes that these types of measures unfortunately have become necessary. She said, “We are each others shelter in these uncertain and chaotic times.”
City Councilor Josh Zakim also agreed saying it is challenging times but during his time out in Copley Square during the immigration rally he said he saw a lot of fear but also a lot of comfort from people in Boston. Zakim said, “I think it is very important that we do this.”
On the other hand City Council Tim McCarthy worries about using the term sanctuary. He urged caution of its use saying it might make Boston more of a target for President Trump, who has recently threatened to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities.
McCarthy sited the Trust Act already has the same protections.
“I urge caution as we go forward,” said McCarthy. “It seems like a duplication from what we’ve already done.”
City Councilor Andrea Campbell urged the City Council to take bold steps and take aggressive actions.
She said, “The resolution is great but we have to think about what else we can do.”