The second largest public school district in the United States is taking a stand against immigration raids. Los Angeles United School District voted this week to make all of its schools a “safe zone” for students, meaning that it will not allow immigration officials to enter district property.
The decision stipulates that all requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents must be sent directly to the LAUSD superintendent and the district’s general counsel. Furthermore, the school district announced that it will establish a “response network” to provide more resources for children affected by federal authorities who may seek to deport undocumented immigrants.
This move comes on the heels of an increased effort by the Obama administration to crack down on undocumented immigration, after waves of immigrants fleeing violence in Central America have entered the country over the past two years. The first of these crackdowns, which began earlier this year, resulted in the detainment of 121 individuals – many of whom are women and children who left their homes to escape violence and poverty.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a statement that the agency considers schools and churches to be “sensitive” sites, and therefore it would not be requesting access to LAUSD property in the first place. However, the threat of deportation alone is enough for some families to keep their children home from school, a situation the school district is likely trying to prevent.
The recent crackdown has caused members of Latino families to live in fear, even if they are lawful residents or citizens of the United States. This fear is not irrational. Across the country, immigrants are seeing the devastating effects of the ongoing raids throughout their communities. ThinkProgress recently profiled Latino residents living in Wheaton, Maryland, who were too afraid to leave their houses and had to adjust their routines because of rumored ICE activities in the area. Activists in Prince George County, Maryland have reported seeing an increasing number of unmarked cars, suspected to be operated by ICE agents, in parking lots around the county.
Almost half of the Los Angeles student body identifies as Latino, and an estimated 10 percent of the Los Angeles population is undocumented. Given the recent record of immigration enforcement, and the recent campaign rhetoric surrounding the issue, a safe zone could give many L.A. families some peace of mind.
Bryan Dewan is an intern at ThinkProgress.