East Aurora School Board Members Urge Discussion on Immigration ‘Safe Zone’ Proposal

East Aurora School District 131 board members are looking to revisit a proposal to declare the district a “safe zone” for students and families facing immigration enforcement.

The draft resolution, first brought before the board by community groups in January, calls for protections for students regardless of their immigration status, to the extent allowed under law.

School board member John Laesch, who asked Monday for discussion on the resolution, said if students feel safe in school they will attend school, but if they fear action by immigration officials at school their parents could keep them home.

Other suburban school boards have passed similar “safe zone” or “safe haven” resolutions, including those in Evanston Township High School District 202 and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 in the north suburbs, and the west suburban Oak Park and River Forest High School board. In February 2017, Chicago Public Schools officials issued guidelines directing principals not to let federal immigration authorities in district buildings without a criminal warrant.

Laesch’s request for East Aurora to revisit the proposed measure comes amid ongoing tension over U.S. immigration policies and concerns about actions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in the Fox Valley.

The proposal brought before the East Aurora school board would prohibit the district or representatives from asking about a child’s immigration status. They would be prohibited from requiring a student or parent to produce immigration documentation and from identifying students’ or families’ immigration status to ICE officers, unless required by law. Immigration officers would be required to have a criminal warrant to take any enforcement measures on school grounds.

The proposal also lays out steps administrators would take if immigration authorities seek to enter a school.

A similar proposal was brought before the West Aurora School District 129 board, also in January. Neither school board took action on the resolutions at that time.

Monday, some board members joined Laesch in calling for discussion on the proposal. School board President Annette Johnson said the district should follow the Illinois Association of School Boards’ recommended policies, as it does for many routine matters.

By Sarah Freishtat for CHICAGO TRIBUNE
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