School Districts and Colleges Must Continue to Serve As Safe Zones; Student, Family & Staff Information Must Be Protected
TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Nia H. Gill, Joseph F. Vitale and M. Teresa Ruiz calling for the continued protection of undocumented students and families in New Jersey was approved today by the state Assembly.
The Senate Concurrent 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.
“There is a great deal of anxiety in our communities about the actions of President Trump and the potential for additional policies that target immigrant communities. On the state level, we have a responsibility to do all we can to protect our residents,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “A number of school districts have taken official action declaring that they will continue to protect students, and that has provided relief to families. With this resolution, the Legislature is stating its intent for all schools and college campuses in the state to continue to serve as safe havens for students and families and to keep their information confidential, regardless of what happens at the federal level.”
“All children have a right to an education regardless of their immigration status, and our classrooms should be safe places for them to learn and grow,” said Senator Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee. “The actions in Washington do not change that – they only reinforce the need to make sure students and families are protected and that existing policies are followed. On all school campuses, from our pre-schools to our colleges, officials should be working to ensure the wellbeing of students, families and educators.”
“This country was founded on the work of immigrants and we are such a great country because of their contributions. We recognize that in New Jersey and are proud of our diversity,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This is about upholding our values, and ensuring our policies reflect them. The protection of children and families living in our state is a priority for us and must continue to be for educational institutions.”
The senators’ call comes at a time of extreme concern amongst undocumented students and families about their security in the wake of the presidential election and recent actions cracking down on immigration and travel to the United States, as well as fears about the potential for action by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
While current 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, 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.
The Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR-134) was approved in the Senate Monday by a vote of 22-10.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to the Governor, the State Board and Commissioner of Education, the board of education of each school district, the Secretary of Higher Education, and the governing board of each public institution of higher education.