SAN FRANCISCO — A voicemail service announcement sent out by the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) this past Wednesday stated that the district is committed to providing a “safe space” for all students “including recent immigrants regardless of immigration status.” The voicemail message was crafted to quell growing concerns by parents, including Muslims and Mexicans, worried over Donald Trump’s incoming presidency and the president-elect’s opposition to illegal immigration, as well as his promise to “end sanctuary cities.”
A female reading the voicemail service announcement stated:
“This is a message from the San Francisco Unified School District to let you know we are committed to providing a safe space for learning for each and every one of our students, including recent immigrants regardless of immigration status. We will continue to uphold San Francisco sanctuary city for all immigrants. This week your child’s school will be distributing information with resources for immigrant families. We also invite you to visit our website at www.sfusd.edu to find more information.”
The mass voicemail message, which was sent via text and robocall, also promised that SFUSD will continue to follow the sanctuary city policies for all immigrants.
Gentle Blythe, spokesperson for SFUSD, said that the voicemail was sent as a response to the flood of questions that teachers, principals and administrators have been receiving from concerned parents and students due to fears over the incoming Trump administration.
“We have had many staff members report that students and families from a variety of backgrounds, whether they are Muslim or Mexican or possibly undocumented, are expressing fears about what the President-elect might do and how it will affect them,” Blythe said. “SFUSD is working with the City to ensure that we are informing families about their rights and the resources available to them should they have concerns.”
San Francisco has adopted policies to protect illegal immigrants and will not prosecute them if their crime is having violated federal immigration laws, which the San Francisco Board of Education has historically stood behind.
“In the past decade, there have been a few incidents where immigration enforcement officials were rumored to have gone to schools looking for undocumented immigrants and these rumors had an adverse impact on students,” Blythe said. “In fact, schools across the city reported students not coming to school as they were worried about being questioned and detained by ICE.”
An accompanying letter dated November 29, 2016 was posted on the main page of the SFUSD’s website in various languages, including Spanish and Arabic, which, in part, stated:
“We work very hard to make our schools safe spaces for learning for every one of our students. This includes, but is not limited to, ensuring that a child’s race, religion and immigration status do not create any barriers to their education. As described in our district policies, we will continue to uphold our commitment and support of San Francisco as a Sanctuary City for all immigrants.”
The letter also included a question and answer section with one of the answers expressing that “if we became aware of a student’s immigration status, we still would not share that information with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”
During Trump’s presidential campaign, he gave a speech where he promised to “end the sanctuary cities,” and said those “that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars.” Trump has stated that a priority of his administration will be to deport criminals and secure the border by building a wall, welcoming legal immigration through a “big fat door.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that he and his staff would continue to “uphold its 27-year-old sanctuary city laws protecting people who are in the country illegally” not long after Trump won the election.
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