The school district's old administration building on Ross.

Education

How Dallas ISD Can Protect Undocumented Students

As Congress continues to fight over immigration policy, the future for thousands of Dallas students remains unclear.

As we mentioned in “Leading Off” this morning, Dallas ISD is working to reassure students and their parents over uncertainty concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which could affect thousands of undocumented children enrolled in Dallas schools. The school district has more than 70,000 students who are English Language Learners (it does not keep track of students’ immigration status, so that’s not a flawless measure) and employs 78 “Dreamers,” including 36 teachers. That’s a lot of people whose futures are at stake while Congress bickers over DACA and immigration policy.

The district’s efforts, a campaign based on the always sensible advice of “don’t panic,” include the debut of a new webpage that’s very much worth a look. It has the text of a school board resolution from last year promising to protect students “TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW,” regardless of their immigration status, and links to useful resources for undocumented immigrants, like a guide to your constitutional rightslegal assistance for undocumented immigrants, and scholarships for undocumented students.

An FAQ answers immigration questions and elaborates on how the school district would respond to, say, a request from ICE for information on undocumented students. A: “We do not ask for students’ immigration status when they enroll. If we get a request for student information, Dallas ISD’s policies will protect all of our students’ constitutional and legal rights to keep their information private.” A few of the answers are frustratingly vague. For example:

Q: Are immigration enforcement actions allowed on school grounds? A: In February 2017, Dallas ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution to designate all Dallas ISD schools as welcoming and protective to the fullest extent of the law.

Others describe a kind of worst-case scenario:

Q: If I am a parent or guardian, and I am worried about being detained while my child is at school, what should I do? A: In the event that any parents are detained during school hours, the District will keep students safe until an authorized adult can pick up the child. Please take this opportunity to update your emergency contact information for your students at your school.

The webpage also links to a letter from Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, which I found striking enough to copy below in full:

Dear Dallas ISD Families,

Dallas ISD’s top priority is providing a welcoming and protective environment for students and staff. Our mission calls for the education of not just some students, but all students.

As a member of an immigrant family, I see myself reflected in the faces of your children, and your faces are those of my parents who sacrificed, worked and dreamed of a brighter future for their children.

Thus, it is heartbreaking to see the uncertainty and fear among undocumented families across the country prompted by the recent developments in the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. While DACA primarily impacts young adults, it has understandably caused anxiety throughout our community.

Regardless of the outcome of DACA, you can rest assured that the great team of educators across Dallas ISD will continue to provide every child a quality education that prepares them for college and a career, regardless of immigration status.

This promise extends to our district staff. Dallas ISD has a proud history of helping young adults realize their dreams of pursuing a career in education. Their contributions, both in and outside the classroom, are vital to prepare our students to become future leaders. As Congress makes a decision on the future of DACA, our attorneys will continue working to determine how we can best support these valuable employees.

Dallas ISD is defined by our diversity. Our district stands united with students, parents and staff of all cultures who believe that every student can grow, succeed and contribute, regardless of background.

Thank you for your support as we continue our work to protect the rights of all students and staff to pursue their dreams!

Respectfully,

Michael Hinojosa, Ed.D
Superintendent of Schools

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