Houston Schools Go ‘Sanctuary’

FRANCE : PRIMARY SCHOOL CLASS Reportage in Les Hélices Vertes primary school in Cerny, France. Year 5, year 6 multi-level class. AMELIE-BENOIST / BSIP

The board of trustees for the Houston Independent School District, the largest district in Texas, passed a “sanctuary” schools resolution written in carefully worded language, although it takes a swipe at Governor Greg Abbott and “anti-sanctuary” legislation.

On February 9, Houston ISD trustees voted unanimously to support those impacted by any state and federal travel bans by declaring their campuses safe havens for students and families illegally in the United States. Posted online, the resolution reassures “our students and their families, many of whom are of Hispanic heritage, regardless of their immigration status…”

The Houston Chronicle reported Superintendent Richard Carranza is vocal about protecting students, particularly those who are “undocumented.” In a letter to “Team HISD,” Carranza wrote: “All of our students have a constitutional right to equal access to education regardless of any circumstance that is no fault of their own – whether they’re an immigrant or low-income.” He added: “Our schools are safe havens for all students.”

Previously, Carranza, 49, served as school superintendent in San Francisco where, in 2016, he stated: “The San Francisco Unified School District, like the city of San Francisco, is a sanctuary,” according to California Political Review. In 2015, the California city came under fire for its sanctuary policy after an illegal immigrant deportee and convicted felon murdered 32-year-old San Francisco resident Kate Steinle.

The resolution opposes “recently imposed restrictions on travel to the United States from several countries in Africa and the Middle East,” alluding to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, the seven terror-ridden travel-banned nations named in President Trump’s recent executive order now on hold. The Houston ISD board also rejected “any legislation that may repeal the DREAM Act,” referring to former President Obama’s 2012 executive amnesty, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), for the children of illegal immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally.

The resolution then raises “serious concerns” about any Texas legislation filed “which exacerbates growing insecurity among some of our families, specifically Senate Bill 4, which authorizes state law enforcement officers to take an active role in immigration enforcement.”

Last week, the state Senate passed SB 4 authored by Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock). This bill would punish sanctuary cities, counties, and colleges that fail to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Following its passage, Abbott commented, in part: “As Governor, I will not tolerate sanctuary city policies that put the citizens of Texas at risk.”

The Houston ISD website houses a Q&A discrimination and immigration rights tip sheet in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Arabic. It advises families: “All children have a constitutional right to equal access to education regardless of their immigration status or that of their parents. That right cannot be taken away by the president, the State of Texas, or Congress.”

The district says it does not collect or share student immigration status. They refer families to the Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities created by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Yet missing is information that the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) already prohibits schools from turning over student immigration status to federal agents and that the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Plyler v. Doe protects K-12 illegal immigrant minors from discrimination, plus mandates public schools must educate these students.

This resolution seems to be just one instance where Houston ISD gravitated towards a controversial decision in recent years. In 2010, former Superintendent Terry Grier actively lobbied the Obama administration to allow Texas schools to participate in the Race to the Top (RTTT) $700 million federal grant competition, even though then-Governor Rick Perry declined on behalf of the state. Three years later, the U.S. Education Department awarded Houston ISD a five-year $30 million RTTT grant through a “district” provision for the program often associated with Common Core, Breitbart Texas reported.

In 2015, school board documents revealed the district’s Arabic Immersion Magnet School accepted a $75,000 grant from the educational Qatar Foundation International, an organization with alleged ties to terrorism.

In their response to the tragic 2015 hate crime shooting of nine black parishioners in South Carolina, Houston ISD board members stripped eight campuses of their Confederate-linked historical names amid a financial crisis where the district borrowed $212 million to cover a $211 million hole in its 2012 $1.9 billion school bond, the largest in Texas history. Still, their budget fell short by $107 million. A contentious audit ensued. Last year, it cost Houston taxpayers $1.25 million to rebrand the eight schools.

El Paso ISD declared itself a sanctuary school district in late December.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.


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