The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 8th

How Orange County schools are working to help immigrant families

A school bus drives down MLK Jr. Blvd., on Monday, March 4, 2019. The Orange County Board of Education passed a new resolution in which the board refuses to share information regarding the immigration status of students and their families to immigration agents. This comes after more than 200 North Carolina residents were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the past month.
Buy Photos A school bus drives down MLK Jr. Blvd., on Monday, March 4, 2019. The Orange County Board of Education passed a new resolution in which the board refuses to share information regarding the immigration status of students and their families to immigration agents. This comes after more than 200 North Carolina residents were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the past month.

In an effort to protect the privacy of students and families, the Orange County School Board unanimously adopted a resolution in support of immigrant children on Feb. 25. 

This resolution states the district will neither inquire about a student's immigration status nor share it voluntarily with immigration agencies. The district will allow students to receive a public education, regardless of their immigration status and will promote collaboration between local advocacy groups, government entities and Orange County Schools.

“I agree with this resolution, and I believe that (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) involvement is making a negative effect in all aspects of students learning," said community member Cristina Carrasco in an email.

With over 200 North Carolina residents arrested by ICE in February, this resolution was passed during a time when ICE involvement in North Carolina remains in the public eye.

“I think that the uptick that you’ve seen is again a direct result of some of the dangerous policies that some of our county sheriffs have put into place," said Sean Gallagher, Atlanta field office director for ICE, in a press conference. "It really forces my officers to go out on the streets to conduct more enforcement operations out in the community, at courthouses, at residences, doing traffic stops. This is a direct correlation between the sheriffs’ dangerous policies of not cooperating with ICE and the fact that we have to still continue to execute our important law enforcement mission.” 

Gallagher is referring to the recent trend of newly elected sheriffs vowing not to participate in ICE programs in the North Carolina. 

While this was happening, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle joined other North Carolina mayors in denouncing the ICE activity.

In December 2018, the arrest of Durham resident Samuel Oliver-Bruno concerned UNC students about the safety of the community. Brenda Stephens, chairperson of the Orange County Schools Board of Education, said she is seeing alarm in public schools now as well. 

“ICE activity has increased, causing anxiety throughout our area," Stephens said in an email. "Consequently, the board believed that we should reaffirm our resolution from several years ago. And, that’s exactly why we voted unanimously to pass the resolution in support of immigrant children on Monday evening.”

In December 2014, the board established its position on equal access to education for immigrant children by unanimously passing a resolution affirming the board's commitment to educational equality and social justice.

Stephens mentioned the school district’s collaboration with the Family Success Alliance as an example of existing ties between the district and immigration advocacy networks. The Zone Navigator Program connects community members to navigators who can serve as guides for families in need of different resources.

Thilini Weerakkody, a UNC sophomore and co-director of outreach for the Campus Y, helps organize events to promote social justice in the Chapel Hill community. She said she supports the board's resolution. 

“Immigrant families are experiencing heightened fear and anxiety because of the new immigrant control tactics,” Weerakkody said. “... Education is a human right, and I am proud that my county is choosing to make it more accessible and comfortable for its students.” 

@andreaefthy

city@dailytarheel.com

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