The Lovington School Board is considering a resolution that, if adopted, promises support to students and employees who may be subject to deportation under a threat made by the Trump Administration earlier this month.
The resolution shows the district’s support for students and teachers who fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — an American immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country illegally as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.
As of 2017, approximately 800,000 individuals — referred to as Dreamers after the DREAM Act bill — were enrolled in DACA, which was implemented by the Obama administration in June 2012 in order to provide prosecutorial discretion to federal agencies with limited resources.
On September 5, the Trump Administration announced its plans to rescind the DACA program on March 5, 2018.
Those individuals, of which there are more than 20 in the Lovington school district, could now face deportation if Congress does not act to extend DACA or implement new immigration policy.
Some school districts across the nation have gone as far as to support DACA as stating they would chain school doors shut to prevent removal of DACA students by federal agents. However, school board President Greg Maxie said that is not the case in Lovington. The district is simply pushing for the state’s congressional delegation to resolve the issue quickly.
“The Lovington Municipal School Board will urge our New Mexico Congressional Delegation to deliver an expedient legislative solution that provides all DACA recipients with certainty in fulfilling all of their potential,” the proposed resolution reads. “In concert with our board, the LMSD Administration will provide all of the support possible to all students as permitted by law.”
“Those who came out of the shadows and registered with DACA are the people who need our support,” Maxie said. “There are many undocumented immigrants who didn’t register and they may not be as vulnerable as the people who did. What we want to do with whatever resolution we pass is urge all the members of our legislative delegation in Washington to support DACA. In our community we are going to do everything possible to support our DACA students and employees.”
Former school board president Dymorie Maker said she was concerned that the resolution, as presented to the board, ran the risk of being seen as political because it specifically referred to persons subject to DACA.
“Our position in this school district has always been that we welcome all students,” Maker said. “I think that should continue to be our position. I don’t think we are going to find anyone in this room who isn’t empathetic to the people who are affected by it.”
Maxie told the News-Sun Friday the proposed resolution seeks to do just that.
“As an individual board member, it has been difficult to sign some of the resolutions going around the state for all school districts to consider because they would be hard to align politically with,” he said. “Because we have not only students but working members of our community who are DACA recipients, we wanted to show our support for them.”
He said examples of students who have come through the district under DACA includes a former student now a police officer whose grandfather passed away before his petition could be completed and another whose father died before his petition was completed. In both cases both could be regulated to “undocumented” status if DACA goes away.
“Three of them are now public teachers,” he said of past students. “A few in Hobbs and a few in Lovington. They could move into undocumented status if we don’t find a resolution.”
Board member Paul Campos agreed that the focus of the Lovington School Board has always been to educate all students.
“We want to be sure all our kids are taken care of. This is a hot topic, I know, but we need to take a stand on it so that DACA students and employees know we are standing with them,” he said.
Maker maintained that the resolution is “too political.”
“There are ways to address this without specifically mentioning DACA,” she said. “We are a non-partisan board and when someone reads this, it seems like a strong, political statement.”
Mara Salcido-Alcantar, school board member, countered that “we need to address the DACA students. They are the issue. We’re talking about protecting students.”
Campos expanded on Salcido-Alcantor’s remarks, saying, “The real problem is that these people are facing deportation because the president changed policy mid-stream. All we are doing here is reassuring students and employees that we are supporting them.”
Board member Zac Zimmerman, who spoke to the issue late in the meeting, said he wants students in Lovington schools to be assured that they are welcome and safe while they are at school.
Maxie said the district’s resolution draws from a letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan by New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce.
In releasing his letter, Pearce called Congress to the mat for its “patchwork” approach to immigration policy and “sidestepping” of the Constitution.
“No longer can our nation kick the can down the road with questionably legal short-term patches like DACA,” Pearce’s statement read. “We must work together, across party lines, to find viable, long-term solutions that provides fairness and justice for all.”
“We must formulate a permanent solution. With only six months to act, Congress must work together in a bipartisan manner to craft legislation that is fair and just to DACA recipients,” Pearce’s letter reads. “DACA recipients know no home other than the United States. While finding a solution to the DACA program may only be one piece to overall immigration reform, it is a necessary step that must be taken by Congress.”
Maxie said the proposed resolution will not be on the agenda for a special session meeting of the school board on Sept. 20. It may or may not come before the board at October’s meeting.
“There have been no requests to have it on there. Two or more board members have to request it be on the agenda,” he said.
The following is the Lovington School Board resolution:
WHEREAS, Lovington Municipal School Board values our community’s ethnic, racial, linguistic, and socio-economic diversity, and believing that our diversity is a source of our District’s strength, and that the Lovington Municipal School Board is committed to ensuring all of our students and employees can live and pursue their education and livelihoods in peace and prosperity; and
WHEREAS, nearly 800,000 young people who came to the United States as children have come forward, passed background checks, and received permission to live and work in America with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), they have advanced their education, started small businesses, and more fully established themselves as integral members of our society; and
WHEREAS, since DACA was introduced in 2012, of the nearly 800,000 young men and women that have been screened and approved for the program, of those includes nearly 4,300 in New Mexico who are currently employed or enrolled in school, and of those, 32 who are students in the Lovington Municipal School District, or work in our community; and
WHEREAS, DACA is under immediate, existential threat due to the announced repeal of DACA and “winding down” of the program announced by the U.S. Attorney General and the Department of Justice announced six month delay in deportations. DACA students, members of our community who enrolled and self-identified through DACA are now in turmoil and fear; and
WHEREAS, the LMSD and its governing board is dedicated to providing quality education accessible to all students and lifelong learners to advance our communities, our country and our world. In that regard, it has been our vision to inspire every student to think, learn, achieve and serve. It is important that Lovington’s DACA students know that each is a welcomed and valued member of the LMSD.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Lovington Municipal School Board stands by all of our students, and supports the continuation of educating all students to the completion of their educational ambitions including those protected by DACA, while the District will continue to explore available options; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT, The Lovington Municipal School Board will urge our New Mexico Congressional Delegation to deliver an expedient legislative solution that provides all DACA students with certainty in fulfilling all of their educational potential. In concert with our board, the LMSD Administration will provide all of the support possible to DACA students as permitted by law. The LMSD is committed to maintaining community stakeholder engagement around implementation of policies that preserve and protect our diverse and inclusive community, and will serve as a resource for community members with questions, comments, or concerns about student safety or local school role in defending vulnerable students.