ELIZABETH, NJ — The Elizabeth public school district has committed itself to ensuring a safe environment for students regardless of immigration status.
The Elizabeth Board of Education passed a resolution Feb. 16, “affirming its commitment to a safe and supportive school environment for all students, regardless of immigration status,” according to the resolution obtained by LocalSource.
The resolution states that students who are undocumented, or who may have undocumented family members, can be assured of a “welcoming and safe school environment,” and that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may not access students or their information without first going through all proper procedural channels and processing requests through the Office of the Superintendent.
“The board recognizes the potential for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to engage in enforcement efforts to detain undocumented individuals, and that such efforts may result in ICE officials seeking to enter upon school grounds for purposes of enforcement,” reads the resolution. “ICE activities in and around schools, early childhood centers and other district facilities would risk disruption to the learning environment. … The board, by adopting the within resolution, intends to reaffirm its commitment to policies that seek to avoid such disruption and interference with the education of district students.”
All requests made of the district or its schools by ICE officials to access information or school grounds, states the resolution, must be processed through the Office of the Superintendent to ensure compliance with the law. The resolution also affirms that district staff will continue to treat all students in an equitable manner without regard for race, ethnicity, immigration status, or national origin.
“District staff shall not inquire about a student’s immigration status, or the immigration status of the student’s parents, guardians or family members,” states the resolution.
Elizabeth School District spokesperson, Pat Politano, issued a statement to LocalSource in a Feb. 22 email, stating that the district is committed to its students inclusion, regardless of immigration status.
“The Elizabeth School District — the superintendent, Board of Education and staff — is committed to equal educational opportunities for all children living in Elizabeth and will not allow any action that seeks to exclude any child in the city from educational opportunities because of their or their parents’ immigration status or perceived immigration status,” Politano said.
None of the nine-member school board responded to LocalSource’s request for comment as of press time.
The resolution is based off of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 decision, Plyler v. Doe, which held that it is unconstitutional to deny a free public education to children who are not legally admitted into the United States and that a child’s enrollment in public school may not be conditioned on the child’s immigration status.
The board’s resolution was put forth as immigrants across the nation face an increased risk of deportation, and Elizabeth has already felt the effects of increased vigilance regarding undocumented immigrants in the post-election climate.
On Feb. 17, ICE, with the assistance of the Elizabeth Police Department, attempted to arrest a longtime Elizabeth resident and mother.
Just days later, on Feb. 21, Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage announced that the city would no longer assist ICE without a judicial warrant.
On Feb. 23, Make the Road NJ, an immigration advocacy group, held a press conference and rally to denounce the raid, calling upon the local police to refuse to facilitate ICE Raids.
ICE Raids have swept the country over the past few weeks, with more than 680 arrested last week alone, according to reports put out by the Department of Homeland Security. The arrests were made based on immigration orders put forth by the Trump administration. Last week’s raid in Elizabeth is one of the first raids in recent weeks confirmed in New Jersey.