School district launches web page aimed at immigrant safety
The Hillsboro School District has launched a new page on its website aimed at helping students feel safe in light of recent anti-immigration policies laid out by President Donald Trump.
This month, the district create a new webpage — titled 'Safe and Welcoming Schools' — which includes information for students and immigrant families who might be worried about their immigration status.
The page is aimed at educating immigrant students, staff and families about their rights. It includes legal resources, copies of the district's anti-bullying policies, links to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center's "Know your rights" page (which details how families should respond if they are approached by immigration agents) and a video by Superintendent Mike Scott about the importance of treating all students with respect.
In February, the district confirmed it was working on how to respond if agents with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency show up at schools looking for students, families or information.
The district does not collect or track students' immigration or citizenship status and school principals have been advised to contact district lawyers before any student is removed from the school by police or government officials.
"Sensitivity is heightened," district spokeswoman Beth Graser told The Tribune on Monday. "Everybody wants to know what to do in the hopefully hypothetical situation, if this were the case."
Since taking office less than two months ago, Trump has issued executive orders increasing authority for immigration officers and efforts to detain or deport people living in the country illegally. He has blocked immigrants from several African and Middle Eastern countries from entering the country, halted the U.S. refugee program and said he would cut funding to so-called sanctuary cities.
Trump has also said he plans to deport millions of people who are in the country illegally, many of them Mexican, describing some as "bad hombres."
Trump's actions have caused concern among some Hillsboro students as well. The district has seen a handful of student-led protests against the policies in the first two months of 2017.
Students in Hillsboro come from more than 90 countries around the globe, according to district figures. More than one-third of the district's more than 20,000 students are Hispanic.
"What we heard from students is that they really want to be heard and want us to understand how difficult it is to focus on school when you are worried about family members getting deported," said Graser. "How do they get connected with support if they come home and realize that people that were there this morning aren't there anymore?"
After the protests, some white supremacist graffiti was found at Liberty High School, where the largest protest was held. On its webpage, the district said such actions would not be tolerated.
"That's part and parcel to the conversation," Graser said. "Even if we don't understand or agree with someone, we can still show respect and kindness — and we want to use that opportunity to remind everyone that is our expectation while they are at school."
The controversial policies have sparked debates far beyond the walls of Hillsboro schools. City officials have been mulling over a decision for months whether to declare itself a "sanctuary city." That vote is scheduled for March 7.
The city and state already have policies in place that would keep immigration officials from working with Hillsboro police officers. In December the city council passed a resolution saying that Hillsboro was a "safe and inclusive place for all."