Before Trump takes office, schools look to protect undocumented students

School districts, colleges consider what it means to be a 'sanctuary campus'

At Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, President Thuy Nguyen is racing against time to figure out ways the community college can be a safe haven -- both legally and in spirit -- for its undocumented students, of which there are close to 400.

Like many school officials across the country, Nguyen is anticipating a crackdown on illegal immigration, which president-elect Donald Trump has promised, and considering what it would mean for Foothill College to declare itself a "sanctuary campus."

"The legal ramification" of the term, said Nguyen, a lawyer and herself an immigrant, "is basically a communication to the Trump administration that there will be a resistance."

Since the election students and faculty across the country have lobbied for their institutions to declare themselves sanctuary campuses, a term inspired by sanctuary cities that vow not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. A petition calling on Stanford University to take this action has collected more than 2,000 signatures from student, faculty and alumni.

A group of Palo Alto parents penned a letter to the school board this week asking for the district's trustees to "show unusual courage in the face of the great potential harm posed by the Trump administration" and declare Palo Alto schools as sanctuaries for immigrant families.

The board, in turn, expressed strong support on Tuesday for a resolution that designates Palo Alto Unified schools as "safe sanctuaries" for students and families from immigration enforcement officials.

As Jan. 20 fast approaches, however, school officials are considering what the amorphous term actually means, with some eying ways to go beyond what they say is at this point a mostly symbolic declaration.

The Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees this week unanimously approved two resolutions, one that calls on Trump to continue the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors to stay in the country and attend school; and a second that states the community college district will not release student records, unless authorized by a student or required by law, to nor cooperate with any federal or state effort to create a registry of people based on any legally protected characteristics, such as religion, national origin, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. The district also resolved not to detain, question or arrest any students solely on the basis of their immigration status.

Foothill College is exploring more concrete ways to support and protect its undocumented students.

"When you talk about or work or serve communities that have always been living in fear or living within a level of anxiety and then now it's accelerated, and rightly so that it's accelerated in light of the language of our politics today, we have to do things that are really authentic and true to what they need -- not surface work," Nguyen said. "That's why I think we have to be thoughtful around that process and not be too quick to react to certain things that may be popular to do but are not necessarily helpful."

Nguyen, along with the De Anza College president and the community college district's chancellor, joined hundreds of college and university presidents, including Stanford's, in signing a letter that calls for the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She has reminded staff that any federal request for student information must go through her office and said at an immigration panel at Foothill last month that her default response will be to demand a court subpoena to release anything. She is also reviewing all of the community college's processes and forms to identify where students might be asked to share their undocumented status or addresses, for example, to see if there are actual legal requirements for doing so and assess whether Foothill could legally waive such a requirement.

"If there is no legal ability to make such changes, then we will also explore possible legislative changes in Sacramento," Nguyen said.

Nguyen is also convening a group of administrators and faculty.

"What we are doing is exploring everything we could do that constitutes what one would call a sanctuary college without necessarily declaring that," she said.

Nguyen is not alone in her hesitation. While some U.S. schools have answered their communities' calls to label themselves sanctuary campuses, others have decided against doing so. Harvard University's president, for example, chose not to, stating that it "offers no actual protection to our students. I worry that in fact it offers false and misleading assurance."

Other campus leaders have worried it could also draw unwanted attention from immigration officials to their undocumented students.

Palo Alto school board Vice President Ken Dauber expressed similar concerns about a resolution proposed by two of his colleagues at Tuesday's board meeting. The draft resolution declares Palo Alto schools to be "sanctuaries for students to the fullest extent allowed by law."

While not disagreeing with the resolution's intent, he worried it amounts to "over-promising."

"The fact is that we can be non-cooperative with the federal government to the extent permitted by law. We cannot unfortunately guarantee the safety of students in our schools," he said. "I don't want to create in people a false impression about what's possible to do."

Board President Terry Godfrey, who with trustee Melissa Baten Caswell drafted the resolution, told the Weekly that that sanctuary is "more of an attitude and position you take to reaffirm your value of your students."

Stanford, meanwhile, affirmed its support for students regardless of immigration status after the election. The university does not collect or share information about students' immigration statuses and would not provide such information to law enforcement unless legally required.

The university will "advocate for (federal) policies consistent with its commitment to members of our community who are undocumented," Stanford said. "Our support for all members of our community, including undocumented students, remains firm."

Ravenswood City School District Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff, whose jurisdiction includes East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park, said she is not worried that making sanctuary declarations could actually harm rather than protect students. To decide against establishing educational institutions as safe spaces in today's political climate, she said, is an "abdication of responsibility."

"Education is not just about academics. It really involves looking at the common good and some very basic acknowledgment of civil liberties and human rights," she told the Weekly. "I think as educators, we have to stand up."

Ravenswood, for its part, is also considering a resolution that will reaffirm its protections for undocumented students and families, including refusing to share information with the federal government that "jeopardizes the safety and well-being of our children," Hernandez-Goff said. The city also plans to more widely disseminate information about its longtime sanctuary status, she said.

Since Trump's election, undocumented immigrants have become worried about the government having access to personal information they provided when signing up for protections afforded under the Obama administration or locally, from DACA to a new California law that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses.

In East Palo Alto, some Ravenswood parents refused to sign their children up for free and reduced lunch at the start of this school year, Hernandez-Goff said, explicitly fearful of giving the government their information.

The specifics of Trump's immigration policy remain to be seen, and they may be changing from his pre-election rhetoric: In a TIME Magazine interview last week, he indicated he would consider the situations of immigrants who have been able to attend school and work without threat of deportation under the executive action.

"We will work something out that's going to make people happy and proud," he told TIME.

Trump, however, is also still committed to building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and has said he plans to immediately deport millions of undocumented immigrants with criminal records after his inauguration in January (a softening from his campaign promise to deport all of the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants).

After he secures the border, Trump said in a Nov. 13 interview on the TV show "60 Minutes," he will consider how to address those who are undocumented but do not have criminal records, whom he called "terrific people."


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35 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Of course colleges want to do this. They don't want to lose their customers, do they?

64 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2016 at 5:11 pm

It's a real shame that so many schools no longer demonstrate core American values--such as a respect for Federal Law (including immigration law)--instead becoming champions of those who are in the country illegally. It's hard to have any respect for these institutions, and the individuals who promote those erosive policies, instead of a respect for the idea of this being a nation of laws.

If our educational institutions do no reflect and infuse our core values into the next generation of our children, it's not hard to fear that the nation itself will not long survive in a world that is so hostile to our country.

45 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 15, 2016 at 6:05 pm

At university, students are often taught there is no such thing as objective truth in Ethics, and they can do whatever they want, if it works for them.

But then people become angry when those students do what they were taught, and their actions result in a national financial crisis, such as when subprime mortgage loans were given to borrowers with poor credit, and let's remember the most recent Wells Fargo scandal, when employees were told to open accounts for customers, without the person's knowledge, and to meet the company quota.

Americans can thank our universities and colleges for the removal of the line determining good from bad regarding Ethics, and almost everything else this country was built upon: like common sense.

To a sanctuary campus that wants to act on its own, I say: no government money. The gravy train: over.

54 people like this
Posted by swartch
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Suck it up buttercups... it is the law. No safe zones for "adults". Time to take the stuffed animals, play dough and crayons home. Get in line, get a green card and enter the county legally.

51 people like this
Posted by Hard ball
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2016 at 9:31 pm

Federal funding & grants should be pulled from any city or educational institution than cannot respect the law of the land.

13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 15, 2016 at 9:58 pm

"It's a real shame that so many schools no longer demonstrate core American values--such as a respect for Federal Law (including immigration law)..."

If you had any real respect for the free and open Marketplace, you would know that the Marketplace always trumps Federal Law. That's the big unwritten law of capitalist commerce.

The Marketplace demands a cheap, compliant, disposable labor pool. "Illegal" immigrants fill that demand perfectly. Under a threat of deportation, an employer can pay "illegals" as little as he pleases, work them as hard as he wants to, and shoo them away at his pleasure. No "legal" would tolerate that treatment.

So show some respect for the people your pampered lifestyle depends on. Who do you think raises and harvests the food you eat? Who do you think puts a new roof on your house in the summer heat? Who do you think washes the dishes at your high end restaurants? Who do you think mows your lawn? Popeye?

Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley

on Dec 15, 2016 at 10:06 pm

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24 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2016 at 11:58 am

Another case of "Crying Wolf" by people who don't have any idea how the new administration is going to deal with illegal immigrants. They base their assumption on fake news and scare tactics promoted by the left leaning press, race baiters and sore loser democrats.

26 people like this
Posted by Be legal
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 16, 2016 at 12:05 pm

A country needs laws to make things work. If there are laws established by government, should we follow??? I think it is wrong for any government agencies, schools, universities to break any federal laws. Any illegal activity is WRONG, it should not become "legal" just to change the word from illegal to undocumented. The new administration already said that all illegal criminals should be sent back to their own countries...what is wrong with this??? Our prisons are FULL already. Should we spend more money to build more prisons or schools???

5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 16, 2016 at 1:27 pm

How does someone sign up for classes in college if they are illegal? When I sign up I have to submit a payment for the classes and be accountable for living in the correct area for the school. So what is preventing people from making the time to get documented? If you are going to live here and transact business here then get documented and established as a recognized individual. That is especially important if you are trying to transfer class credits to a 4 year college.

8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 16, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Curmudgeon - why do you assume that anyone who is doing maintenance work is illegal? Are you one of those people who want slave labor on your property?
You are trying to make a point but the point you are making is the argument as to why the people on your property are paid a valid wage and are a legal citizen who can take you to court if you refuse to work with them in a business like manner. Your thoughts are the argument against illegal labor.

7 people like this
Posted by Not impressed by the comments
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 16, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Gee, lets take the downtrodden and tread on em some more. God forbid that they might actually get an education. How very American.

1 person likes this
Posted by Too many hypocrites spoils the broth
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2016 at 6:16 pm

"Before Trump takes office, schools look to protect undocumented students" ... Until the student needs an IEP or a 504, then all bets are off, no one us safe.

24 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Curmudgeon logic is based on the philosophy of open border globalism that has destroyed the wages and employment prospects of our lower class and hallowed out our middle class by creating economy-killing regulations and heavy taxes to pay for baskets of social entitlements for illegal immigrants (food, medical education and now apparently legal representation).

By that thinking, anybody has a right to break the law to come here and everybody who follows the law has an obligation to pay for them. If that it the case, in a Curmudgeon marketplace it is also justified to not pay taxes, follow environmental regulations or respect intellectual property rights.

It is time to re-establish the rule of law, reduce government activism and prioritize growing the economy and standard of living for our citizens.

4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 16, 2016 at 7:58 pm

"Curmudgeon - why do you assume that anyone who is doing maintenance work is illegal? Are you one of those people who want slave labor on your property?"

It never occurred to me that ANYONE (in the sense of everyone) who is doing maintenance work is "illegal." Maybe you should examine the subliminal underpinnings of your presumptions.

Do I WANT slave labor? No. Do I recognize quasi-slave labor exists as an outcome of Conservative ideology? Yes.

Do I have to remind Conservatives clamoring to deport their labor base of that fact? Yes--Conservative ideology depends critically on one's inability to do cause and effect reasoning.

"Curmudgeon logic is based on the philosophy of open border globalism that has destroyed the wages and employment prospects of our lower class etc., etc."

I only report the fact and consequences of the supremacy of the open Marketplace above all other laws in Conservative ideology; and the inherent contradiction of the Conservative blather to deport the "illegals" their system depends on. I did not create that ideology. Don't confuse the medium with the message.

Talk the fun talk, but don't get too serious or you'll cut off the limb you're standing on.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 16, 2016 at 8:06 pm

What fun part are you referring to? Sorry - see no "fun" in what you are touting. All I see is Slavery and people being taken advantage of.

21 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 16, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Carlos Slim in Mexico is one of the richest people in the world. Check him out on Wikipedia. He should be eliminating the cartels and improving the educational systems for the young people. They have no need to come here if Mexico would grow up and act like a regular country. There is no need for all of this- make Mexico work for the people. What a concept. And we should expect Mexico to grow up and act like a regular country.

11 people like this
Posted by Happy
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 16, 2016 at 10:10 pm

[Portion removed.] More liberal policies have hurt many of the low income wage earners (many legal immigrants, many African Americans (but not the Obamas), many Native Americans (but not Elizabeth Warren and other minorities) than conservative policies. The open borders policy of the last 8 years has harmed the legal immigrant lower income class far more than anything else. Once the illegally residing population leaves, wages will increase for the working-legally-here people. But some liberals want the slave-situation to stay so that they can harvest their votes. Sad behavior!

6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 16, 2016 at 10:17 pm

"Sorry - see no "fun" in what you are touting."

Apologies, I was overly elliptical. I should have said "fun talk about deporting millions of people."

"All I see is Slavery and people being taken advantage of."

Me too. It's the bedrock of a large part of the El Norte economy. That's why the "illegals" are here to stay. Too many wealthy people with political clout make a lot of money exploiting them. The Donald understands that, but his Base does not.

"we should expect Mexico to grow up and act like a regular country."

Before or after they pay for Trump's much-promised wall?

8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 16, 2016 at 10:27 pm

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

"But some liberals want the slave-situation to stay so that they can harvest their votes."

The Donald's proven strategy to a T. He'll use it again in 2020. Haven't thought of him as a liberal, though. Well, not lately.

Thanks for using a gender-free pronoun in reference to my avatar.

10 people like this
Posted by Thank you local officials
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 17, 2016 at 10:12 am

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm

There are H-2A visas for agricultural workers. The number of workers allowed these visas has no limit. They required the employer to pay prevailing wages, provide a place to sleep and provide two hot meals/day. They are a very good deal for foreign workers. They are valid for one year and renewable every year. Often farmers hire illegals so they can pay them less and not feed them or provide good wages.
This is a very good and more than fair system and has worked well. [Portion removed.] So enough of the sob stories of the illegal picking all our fruit, its just nonsense.

Web Link

H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers
The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. A U.S. employer,a U.S. agent as described in the regulations,or an association of U.S. agricultural producers named as a joint employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on a prospective worker’s behalf.

4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2016 at 8:14 pm

Right wing news media and politicians don't want you to know that the biggest ever amnesty for "illegals" was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, aka The Reagan Amnesty for the president who signed it into law. Web Link .

7 people like this
Posted by ?
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 23, 2016 at 2:42 am

How is it okay to break the law by entering illegally? Because they are going to school or employed, it doesn't matter that they broke the law?

If a person breaks the law and murders someone, then decides to help the homeless, should this killer be absolved of the crime because he is doing something good for society?

Let's not forget that someone without health insurance can go into the ER and get free health care, even if they are illegally in our country and not contributing to society.

4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 23, 2016 at 9:30 am

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"How is it okay to break the law by entering illegally?"

Because they are obeying a much higher law in Capitalist societies--the Free And Open Marketplace. They supply a vital commodity: a cheap disposable labor force.

The only higher law in society is bigotry, which wily politicians find useful every election season. [Portion removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2016 at 11:24 am

Schools should not receive federal funding if their administration make an effort to violate federal laws.

If schools are found to have violated NCAA policy when it comes to athletes or athletic programs, they can be placed on probation, lose scholarships, etc. If a college is found to violate certain academic requirements, they can lose accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

There should be stiff federal penalties over colleges that knowingly violate federal law. Granting admission to foreign students on visas is wonderful -- but knowingly giving spots to foreign nationals in this country illegally should be a crime.

3 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2016 at 12:03 pm

@Jerry99: That is a good point. As a legal immigrant who spent her childhood performing migrant farm labor (along with my entire family), I would add that there is no shortage of legal farm laborers in the United States.

In fact, if you go to the various colonias found along the Rio Grande Valley, you'll find as many license plates from other states as you'll find from Texas. Many of my school friends were from families that did the same thing -- and they were legal residents too.

Every May, our large would leave to travel from state to state and farm to farm and work the fields. Each season, we would pick beets and cabbage in Arkansas, strawberries, cherries and cucumbers in Michigan, grapes in Tennessee as well as other places where we could get work. We also cleaned fields too (before planting and after harvesting).

Throughout our journeys, we would meet many fellow workers from around the country. While many were Hispanic, there were also white Americans and black Americans. We even saw Asian Americans working the fields in some places. We used to think that many of the workers were "rich" -- because they had good trucks and vans and many of the kids had many nice toys. Some families would even move -- often from the Mexican border -- to be near the farms.

This is not to say that there weren't any illegal immigrants (or those that we suspected to be illegal). From my opinion, if there were illegal immigrants, they were "tag-alongs." We often saw the same families years after year at the various farms. Those "tag-alongs" would join some of those obviously legal families that we would see year after year and they might have one or two extra workers the next year.

Although we were poor (we felt that the houses at the migrant camps were better than the one that we lived in back in the Valley), we never lost focus of what we were doing. My parents made sure of that. The farmers were kind, the managers were professional and we were paid with checks that were used to support the family (and contribute to the building of our house) over the course of the year.

Now, there have been some people on the Palo Alto Online message boards who accuse me of being "uncaring" for immigrants or migrants now that we are no longer forced to do this work. This accusation is ridiculously offensive.

To this day, we do what we can to help migrants. Since I have experience as a migrant, I know what migrant workers (including children) need. Most migrants cannot carry things with them back home. So, school supplies and "big" items that some church organizations would bring to the camps were nice but impractical for many of us. The best things were often things that most people don't even consider: Shoes, boots (including rain boots), socks, coats (if it is cool certain areas), toiletries (e.g., toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc.), tarps, rope, foil paper and even zip lock bags (it is hard to describe how useful foil and zip locks are to migrants).

My husband and I used to donate our old clothes to Goodwill or even on the free section of Craigslist. Now, we save them up and bring them to migrant camps between May and September. We collect clothes from friends and family and then take a few trips out to some of the camps around the region. We were even able to speak with some church work groups and explain what would be more viable donations to help families that need it.

I also want to point out that many migrant families are very proud and do not like to seem like they are "needy" or in need of "charity." So, the best way is to find out from the farmers or managers which families are struggling or in need and speak with the dad, get to know him a little and simply offer those things without pretension.

2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 23, 2016 at 12:55 pm

"This is not to say that there weren't any illegal immigrants (or those that we suspected to be illegal)."

As I've pointed out before, only Mexicans get tagged with that loaded word "illegal". All others get the much more neutral "undocumented" label.

Consistent coincidence, maybe?

4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2016 at 4:35 pm

@Curmudgeon - I have never heard any non-Hispanic illegal immigrants referred to as "undocumented." Then again, the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants are from Latin America.

Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 24, 2016 at 12:09 pm

'I have never heard any non-Hispanic illegal immigrants referred to as "undocumented."'

Look here: Web Link and at the title of this thread.

For an example of the term "illegal" being applied to Latinos, check the posting immediately above.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Community Center

on Sep 26, 2017 at 1:45 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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