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Tribune Editorial: Schools must be a safe place for immigrants and their families

Published March 9, 2017 7:18 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul that comes to my school looking for trouble."

— Charles Xavier, "X-Men"

Members of the Salt Lake City Board of Education are right to take their time and get the legalisms right. But, in the end, they must make it as plain as they can that, no matter what level of cruelty and depravity the war over immigration descends to in the rest of our society, the public schools are, now and forever, DMZ.

Immigrant rights activists had asked the board to adopt a formal resolution laying out the school district's existing practice of keeping student records confidential and demanding a warrant before admitting or cooperating with agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency or any other federal department.

That is, of course, the proper thing for the board to do.

But even the activists were in agreement the other day when the board set the matter aside for some more study and legal advice. It is important to get these things right.

School board members and district administrators and teachers agree with the immigrant community that school must be, and be seen as, a safe place. That it does not become or appear to be an arm of the federal government that will rat out people who don't have the proper documentation, be they students or members of their family.

The mission of the public schools, throughout our nation's history, has been to educate all comers, out of duty to those who attend and as part of their mission to assimilate newcomers and equalize their opportunities in the future.

Even those who worry about our state's and nation's ability to handle a large number of people from other lands should see that a public school system that is safe, welcoming and doing all it can do to educate immigrants and their children is key to a society that is harmonious and where people can make their own way without excessive dependence on government services.

If, on the other hand, students and their families have to worry that the school day is when ICE agents will come for the children in their classrooms, or for their parents, grandparents and older siblings back home, their ability to learn is seriously damaged.

The Salt Lake City Board of Education, and all their fellow board members across the state and nation, should stand firmly against such a threat.




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