Orange County teachers union calls for schools to become sanctuary zones

By: Michael Lopardi

Updated:

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association is calling on the school district to declare all schools as sanctuary zones for immigrant students and their families.

The resolution from the union board said immigrant students are increasingly worried about detention or deportation as President Donald Trump has called for tougher immigration enforcement.

“We've heard stories of children putting mementos in their backpack because they fear that they'll go home and their parents might not be there,” union president Wendy Doromal said.

Sanctuaries are controversial because they aim to provide protection for illegal immigrants.

Randy Ross, who leads a group of Trump supporters in Orange County, opposes sanctuaries and called the union’s actions a political stunt.

“I think it's just a waste of their time. I think it's inappropriate," Ross said. "I'd rather see them focusing on the interests of students and teachers."

A spokeswoman for Orange County Public Schools said the district doesn’t collect immigration information or work with enforcement agents.

The district pointed to federal guidelines listing schools as sensitive locations that are typically off limits for immigration enforcement, therefore making the resolutions mostly symbolic.

“We would want every parent out there to know, regardless of their immigrant status, that your child is safe while at Orange County Public Schools and they will continue to be safe there,” said School Board Chairman Bill Sublette.

Sublette said the district already practices most of what’s listed in the union’s resolution and that the school board will follow the law.

He also said he didn’t believe the board would pass a similar resolution because the district is focused on educating children, not taking a political stand.

The school board in Broward County passed its own resolution in March declaring its schools and events safe places for students regardless of immigration status.

A spokeswoman for the Osceola County School District said school board members have not brought up the sanctuary issue for consideration.

“A majority of them, if they're undocumented, they were also brought here by their parents,” said Ivis Rodriguez, a tutor for immigrant students at the Hope Community Center in Apopka. “They had no choice in it.”

Orange County schools said it has not received any reports of individuals being arrested, interrogated or searched by immigration officers on campus.

The district released the following statement:

"The OCPS Office of Legal Services continues to monitor any policies and memorandums promulgated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office. However, as of today, the last two memorandums regarding the enforcement of immigration laws at “sensitive locations” were issued on October 24, 2011 and on January 13, 2013. Both memorandums, which are still valid, reflect that there will not be enforcement activities by the agency “at or near schools, places of worship, and certain other community locations” absent “exigent circumstances.” To date, there have not been any reports of individuals being arrested, interrogated, or searched on OCPS campuses by immigration officers for possible offenses. OCPS does not collect information regarding immigration status. We make safety our top priority and schools remain a safe place for all our students to learn and develop."



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