This spring, parents and students from Green Dot Public Schools’ United Parents and Students, KIPP Public Charter Schools, and Magnolia Public Schools, hosted the LA Stands for All Immigrant Families assembly, a collective effort to protect the rights of the families our schools serve -- and by extension, families like them across the city. Over 250 parents and school leaders from across Los Angeles sought commitments for the protection of their rights and access to the American Dream, and they also sought assurances for the protection of students, whose fear of detention and deportation are a deterrent to focusing on academics.
“When we stand together we are stronger, safer and can bring about the change our communities need,” said KIPP parent Victor Valtierra.
The recent increase in federal immigration enforcement in Los Angeles has been real reason for alarm on school campuses, especially after a father of four was detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while dropping his daughters off at a school in Highland Park.
Seeking Commitments from Local Officials
The assembly had three main goals: to ensure law enforcement is holding officers accountable for not questioning or arresting anyone on the basis of immigration status; assuring families protection at school sites; and giving families access to legal protections. Attendees demanded more action from attending state, county, city and school district officials to protect immigrant students and families.
Parents saw each of their goals fulfilled -- they were able to secure commitments from all attending officials. California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon committed to continue to craft and pass laws to strengthen protection for all families across the state.
“A lot of panic, fear and anxiety exists in our communities,” said de Leon. “But we must channel this panic, fear, and anxiety into proactive and gigantic steps to defend our hard working people and more importantly, making sure we all know our rights.”
On behalf of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Deputy Chief Phillip Tingirides and Sheriff's Captain Rodrick Armalin clarified the reporting process that communities can use to hold their officers accountable, and committed to regular meetings between LAPD and neighborhood schools.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer committed to ensuring that families can exercise their rights to legal representation by targeting and eliminating scam artists like “notarios” and to support the efforts to expand access to legitimate, affordable legal assistance. “Notario” fraud occurs when individuals present themselves as attorneys or someone qualified to provide legal services, resulting in many immigrants losing money and their cases.
‘We are not alone.’
At the event, Magnolia Civic Engagement Associate Bryant Olandes also shared a story of a student's recent experience with law enforcement, where, as the only Latino student in a group, he was pulled aside and questioned by police about his and his family's legal status: “The thing that stuck out to me most was what the student said to his parents, ‘Mom, why was I the only one pulled aside? The only one asked about my legal status? Was it because of the color of my skin?’” Such incidents of racial profiling take a toll on students emotionally and psychologically, stoking detrimental levels of fear and anxiety.
Stories like Olandes’ served as a reminder why communities must engage and build partnerships with local authorities in order to allay the fears of their children, so they can return their focus to the classroom. “As parents, our experiences and concerns are often missing from the grand resolutions and policies devised by outside experts and decision-makers who have never walked through our school’s front office or sat in our living rooms,” said Green Dot parent Fabiola Martín.
“As parents, our experiences and concerns are often missing from the grand resolutions and policies devised by outside experts and decision-makers who have never walked through our school’s front office or sat in our living rooms.” - Fabiola Martín, Green Dot parent
By the end of the assembly, one thing was certain: this was not a group consumed by fear, but one filled with power. Valtierra captured the spirit of the event: “We are not alone. We know that now.”