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A Safe Haven for All 

Elena Lev , Staff Writer

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It is no surprise that, under the new presidential administration, immigrants are in danger. This claim is reinforced by the president’s negativity toward immigrants of Mexican and Muslim descent, exemplified by both his words and actions. He has stated that “when Mexico sends people, they’re not sending their best,” and recently imposed a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, even for people that are in the United States legally. In response to this, counties and school districts around the country have named themselves “sanctuaries” and “safe havens” and have drafted resolutions that will protect undocumented students and their families.

Our very own West Sonoma County Union High School District is moving in the same direction. On Wednesday, February 15th, the school board met at El Molino High School, and the safe-haven resolution was among their topics of discussion. Although they had already drafted a resolution, some community members believed that it was not as strong as it should be. In a letter to the school board, Analy teacher Christy Lubin wrote, “A safe-haven resolution should go above and beyond reaffirming what the district already does…” Mrs. Lubin cited Santa Rosa City Schools’ resolution, commending their wholehearted commitment to providing a space protected from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (also known as ICE).

That is the ultimate goal of a safe-haven in this regard: providing a location that ensures the safety of students, particularly while they’re on its property. Schools would implement this by not allowing ICE agents on school grounds without explicit permission from the district superintendent, and by protecting the personal information of all students and their families, including documentation status.

Taking these actions is critical to keeping families from being torn apart, which can happen when some family members are in the U.S. legally and some are not. Jackie Peña, a senior at Analy, when asked how undocumented students and their families are affected by the Trump administration, said, “There is a lot of fear. Everyone that is not white is labeled, discriminated against, and seen as a nuisance to the country.” To Jackie, a safe-haven district would mean some of that fear is taken away. “With the safe-haven we would have a place that we can feel secure and protected.”

Lily Smedshammer, a Spanish and ESL teacher at Analy, agrees: “The most important aspect of the resolution is the feeling of security and solidarity it conveys to our students.” Mrs. Smedshammer believes that the message that we empathize and care about the predicament these families are in is an extremely important one, and that the safe-haven resolution is the best opportunity we have to convey that message.

At the school board meeting, the general consensus among the board members was that the resolution needed to be revised and strengthened. Kellie Noe, a member of the board, held the position that it would be a disservice to not protect the district’s families, and her constituents agreed. This was surely in part due to the comments given by those of us in attendance.

One of these comments was by Bill Olzman, a 61-year-old English and History teacher at El Molino. Mr. Olzman is an advocate for equal rights for all, and was a very passionate speaker at the meeting. He voiced his opinion that “not only should everyone be welcomed here, but everyone should be protected here.” Mr. Olzman said that if ICE were to come to the school to take away his students, he would stand between them.

This situation, while touching, will hopefully not be necessary. With the adoption of safe-havens in districts across the nation, the Trump administration will ideally receive the message that we are here and we are not backing down. Says Mrs. Smedshammer, “The stronger that message can be, the better.”

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The student news site of Analy High School
A Safe Haven for All