Sunday, March 12, 2017

Safe Haven

Last Thursday, amusingly coinciding with A Day Without Immigrants, Ukiah Unified School District become a Safe Haven District. 

What does that even mean?

“In this time of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear I strongly encourage you to join me in declaring our public schools “safe havens” for students and their parents and to remind families about existing laws that protect them and their students’ records from questions about immigration status.”

That was from a letter sent to California schools from State Superintendent Tom Torlakson back in December.  School districts around the state have complied with the recommendation (not an edict) and Ukiah joined the ranks of the many last week. 

If you are one of those people that are about to bounce off the ceiling regarding schools sheltering illegal immigrants then I’ll throw these two things out to you.

First, the Supreme Court ruled in Plyler vs. Doe that schools must enroll students regardless of immigration status.  We have a legal obligation and that pretty much wraps up the legality end if you are pushing that route. 

Second, if you know of a teacher that changes their teaching based on the immigration status of a student, go into their classroom and give them a wedgie.  Seriously, pull that underwear straight up over the back of their head and force them to shake themselves into the moral obligation they have to kids.  There are so many thing wrong with assuming a teacher cares about immigration status that I don’t even know where to start.  But I’ll try this one out for all those that bleed red, white, and blue.  I actually had to sign a patriotic oath when I received my credential from the State of California.  Can you believe that?  A real, honest to goodness patriotic oath.  One of the more patriotic things I can think of is teaching kids of every nationality that the United States is an exceptional country.  It may not have the most exceptional Chief Executive at this point but the ideals that this country was founded on should be shared as being something profound.  People that want to deny that are dwelling in the realm of nativism that this country has been dealing with, unfortunately, every few generations. 

For the most part the community has been very supportive of the Safe Haven status.  After all, we do live in a community that has been regularly breaking Federal law with our local marijuana culture for decades so ignoring the Executive Branch isn’t going to be something strange and new.  I wonder what the County Sheriff has to say.

“I personally believe that the community can accomplish a lot more when they have not become a lightning rod,” (Sheriff Tom Allman) said. Allman believes that the schools and local governments could quietly communicate with the Hispanic community that they plan to follow the laws — which require signed warrants and prohibit schools from disclosing information anyway — rather than take loud public stands.

“I think the school board should have at least talked to the Sheriff’s Office, because we are the ones who enforce the laws here. The fact is, they can’t legally keep a federal agent off campus. What they’re doing is rattling their saber and becoming a lightning rod, when all we have to do is respect the laws that are already on the books and accomplish the exact some thing.”

“Emotions can scare people and emotions can calm people,” Allman continued. “By declaring a school district a Safe Haven they’re creating emotions on all sides, and there are 20 sides to this conversation. The very people the school people are trying to protect become more scared.”

The “quietly communicate” stance is interesting since Tom Allman has been on nearly every media outlet in the country talking about how Mendocino County routinely ignores Federal statutes about weed; from CBS to the PBS Newshour, from MSNBC (where he mentioned Ukiah becoming like the Old West) to HBO’s Vice.  I like Allman because it seems like he genuinely has the community’s best interest at heart but I don’t really understand the keep-it-quiet stance.  The local Latino community has very limited representation but has a mammoth contribution to the Ukiah Valley in terms of social and economic progress.  Keeping quiet sends the wrong message.

Nothing will really change at the school except for the weekly ICE sighting scare that is usually the result of the rumor mill.  Otherwise it will be business as usual.