School Districts and Colleges Must Continue to Serve As Safe Zones; Student, Family & Staff Information Must Be Protected
TRENTON – Senator Nia H. Gill has introduced a measure calling for the continued protection of undocumented students and families in New Jersey. The resolution expresses the Legislature’s intent that school districts and public institutions of higher education continue to act as safe zones, and that they protect the identities and data related to undocumented students, families and others who could be adversely affected by future federal policies or executive action resulting in the collection of personal information.
“New Jersey has a long history of supporting those who are seeking a better life for themselves and their children, and it is the contributions of all of our residents of diverse racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds that make our state great,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex). “In light of the national public discourse on immigration and the heightened anxiety of our residents, it is our responsibility as leaders to reaffirm the values that we stand for as a state and our intent to uphold the policies that reflect them. Our schools and institutions of higher education should be safe spaces for learning, and the personal information of students, families and staff must remain confidential.”
The senator’s call comes at a time of heightened concern amongst undocumented students and families about their security in the wake of the presidential election, and fears about the potential for impending action by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As a result, cities across the nation have vowed to protect their residents. In New Jersey, Camden, Newark, Jersey City, Trenton, and Union City have demonstrated support for undocumented immigrants living in their communities and limiting the use of municipal resources to enforce federal immigration law.
Students at colleges around the country and in the state have also voiced concern at demonstrations held last week, including at Rutgers University where the president has pledged to continue its policy to protect students’ confidentiality. Current Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy characterizes school districts and colleges and universities as “sensitive locations,” places where, in the normal course, enforcement actions should not occur unless extraordinary circumstances exist. But the heightened concern and fear has resulted in school districts and institutions of higher education across the United States adopting resolutions and policies reaffirming their intent to continue to serve as safe zones and to protect student information.
“There is great concern about the security of immigrant populations and, as a state that has long embraced people from all backgrounds, it is important that we reaffirm our support for undocumented residents and provide assurance that we will not allow them to be targeted,” said Senator Gill. “Our educational institutions must remain sanctuaries for students.”
The Senate Concurrent Resolution was introduced Monday.