Texas School District Offers ‘Undocumented’ Families Guidance for ‘Anti-Sanctuary City’ Law

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty

The San Antonio Independent School District unveiled a handbook they hope will combat fears about the state’s “anti-sanctuary city”  law and how it may affect their “undocumented” community.

At a press conference held Tuesday and hosted by community activist group San Antonio Rising in Solidarity for Equality, or SA RISE, San Antonio ISD (SAISD) officials celebrated the arrival of the 18-page online One Team-One Vision, Senate Bill 4 Handbook.

This follows last week’s developments when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld most of Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), the state law that prohibits sanctuary cities. It went into effect on September 1, 2017. Breitbart Texas reported that a three-judge panel unanimously overturned most of a lower court’s ruling that temporarily blocked some provisions of the law. Previously, a handful of cities and counties sued to invalidate SB 4 before it went into effect.

Last year, like other urban Texas school districts, San Antonio ISD trustees adopted a symbolic “pro-sanctuary” resolution. The school board noted this was in response to the “national debate on the implementation and enforcement of current immigration laws.”

Similarly, the school district’s SB4 handbook opens with a reassuring letter from San Antonio ISD Police Chief Jose Curiel.

“We will continue to provide equal protection to all the people we serve and will treat all people in a respectful manner, regardless of their immigration status,” he writes, in part.

Curiel also says that school district officers have no authority to enforce federal immigration law or ask about the status of students, faculty, or staff.

“Senate Bill 4 does not apply to a school district or open-enrollment charter school,” states the handbook.

Breitbart Texas has reported repeatedly that the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Plyler v. Doe protects K-12 students brought illegally into the U.S. from discrimination and mandates that public schools educate these children. Additionally, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits schools from turning over student immigration status data to federal agents.

The SB 4 manual largely presents questions and answers to issues and explains what campus police can and cannot do. However, it points out that infractions involving drugs, weapons, bullying, making threats, and others “may violate criminal laws” and put students in contact with local, state and federal agencies including the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office or the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

San Antonio ISD spokeswoman Leslie Price told Breitbart Texas by email that the handbook was “written entirely” by Curiel. She said SA RISE and “other community members reached out and asked the district to provide information to share with the community regarding the impact of SB 4 on school districts.” She clarified that SA RISE “provided input on what kind of information would be useful to the community” and that San Antonio Alliance, the local teachers’ union, “shared in SA RISE’s desire for information.”

San Antonio Alliance is short for the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. They are the local affiliate for the nation’s two powerhouse teachers’ unions — the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). San Antonio Alliance is also affiliated with the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

At Tuesday’s press event, Superintendent Martinez criticized Texas, saying, “We are not a very friendly state when it comes to immigrants.”

Martinez said he understood “first hand the challenges our immigrant families face,” sharing he was born in Mexico and came to the United States around the age of six. He called it “shameful” that a “fix” for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for “undocumented” youth “hasn’t been addressed.” He stated that he and his wife “in our own personal life” contribute to different organizations help DACA students. On the San Antonio ISD website, Martinez urged Congress not to roll back DACA.

The superintendent said his biggest fear beyond “what is happening with ICE and other activities is that many of our children they lose hope.” He asserted DACA financial aid form filings dropped since the “election.” Martinez asserted “immigrant” students now fear filling out the DACA paperwork, but added that San Antonio ISD is hosting a “Dreamer” event so these students learn which colleges offer full-ride scholarships.

Martinez credited Curiel with changing the “culture” of the San Antonio ISD police department. The police chief said he believed the SB 4 handbook was the first of its kind produced by a school district and called it a “first step going forward in a positive manner.”

The school district’s top cop added, “We want to be that shining light and that resource that anyone can come to us and speak to us without the fear of being deported.” He asked what “can we do for the non-documented people to make their lives better ?”

SA RISE posted the press conference on its Facebook page.

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


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.