School Board Seeks to Protect Immigrant Students

Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 8:45 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Above: The ELHS Muslim Student Association at the Homecoming Parade in October 2016.

With all members present, the East Lansing Public Schools’ Board of Trustees voted unanimously last night to pass a resolution resolving to protect students regardless of their immigration status.

The resolution says that East Lansing Public Schools “shall not permit [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officials to access students at school, or to go past the front office of a school building, without having first contacted and processed their request” through the Superintendent’s office.

The resolution also calls for District staff to “continue to treat all students in an equitable manner without regard for race, ethnicity, immigration status, or national origin,” and resolves to “minimize or eliminate the data collected on students’ immigration status.”

Board members Erin Graham and Yasmina Bouraoui drafted the resolution using language they found in similar documents approved by other school boards nationwide. Bouraoui said there are students now in ELPS, as there have been in the past, who are undocumented immigrants and who need this support. She emphasized that this is not just a theoretical issue for the community.

Graham said the issue was personal to her because she has worked in Mexico in rural areas from which undocumented immigrants sometimes come. She warned there may be court challenges to this issue, saying “we don’t know what is coming down the pike,” but she said she is determined to support students who are immigrants.

Trustee Nichole Martin also emphasized that this is not a theoretical issue, saying there are foster children in Ingham County who are refugees. She said she was happy to see a resolution on the books protecting these children.

Bouraoui followed Martin’s remarks by telling those present that if anyone were interested in taking in foster children who are refugees, they should speak to her or Martin, as they both work in this area.

Trustee Karen Hoene also spoke in favor of the resolution, saying that it shows that the District’s number one priority is safety.

East Lansing resident Judy Olsen came to the meeting specifically to speak in favor of the resolution. She is a retired MSU faculty member who now works with the Mid-Michigan Immigration Commission as well as the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing. She said the Commission sees immigration “as a moral issue,” and said virtually every religion has as its foundation the welcoming of strangers in need. She urged the Board to pass the resolution.

Thasin Sardar, Outreach Coordinator for the Islamic Center of East Lansing, said that his own children were not affected by this resolution because they are American citizens, but that he felt it was important for him to come and express his support for the resolution. He told the Board he felt it very important to be supportive and inclusive of all students. The resolution, he told the Board, would help reassure the community of the District’s commitment.

No one spoke against the resolution.