A sanctuary city committee, created by New Haven residents to advocate for undocumented immigrants in the city, met Tuesday night to discuss ways the city could better defend undocumented immigrants against future possible deportation raids.
The main point discussed at the meeting — the committee’s fifth since its establishment less than three months ago — was how to make the parents of undocumented children less fearful about sending their children to school, said attendee Jesus Morales-Sanchez, a member of the community activism group Unidad Latina en Acción. Morales-Sanchez explained that many undocumented parents fear that their children will be abducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while in class, or that they themselves will be detained, leaving their children without parents. Many parents have decided to stop sending their children to school for that reason, according to Fatima Rojas, another attendee who is also a ULA member and mother of a six-year-old daughter.
“My daughter said to me that she was worried because there were kids who didn’t come to school today,” Rojas said, remembering a day shortly after President Donald Trump’s victory.
She added that residents decided to create the committee in the wake of Mayor Toni Harp’s announcement that New Haven would remain a sanctuary city last November. Rojas explained that many residents, especially ULA and JUNTA for Progressive Action members, were upset that the mayor had made this move without consulting residents, and hoped the committee would give residents a means of having “a real dialogue about what it is to be a sanctuary city in New Haven” with the mayor and a way to influence future government decisions on the issues.
In an interview with the News, Harp said she was ready to listen to plans brought to her by the committee. Harp added that a team of Board of Education members has also been investigating issues related to the legality of ICE agents entering schools. She said this Board of Education team found that both state and federal laws protect the rights of students to attend public schools without proper documentation and that if ICE agents wished to enter a public school, they would have to have the appropriate documentation and warrants. But, she added, the Board of Education team doubted ICE would enter Elm City schools.
“With all that has happened in New Haven, the school has never been a place where the federal government has tried to enforce any of their rounding up of undocumented folks,” Harp said.
Morales-Sanchez said the group will aim to educate undocumented immigrants on their rights and train teachers on what to do if ICE agents arrive at a school. Educators will also tell Elm City residents that if they are detained, they have the right to remain silent. Morales-Sanchez added that the committee has begun to look into what teachers are allowed to do in the event that ICE officers come to a school, but that they have yet to find answers.
The committee includes many ULA and JUNTA members, as well as other unaffiliated residents and representatives from the New Haven Public School system, the New Haven Police Department and the Office of the Mayor, Rojas said.
Morales-Sanchez said New Haven has not seen a major deportation raid since 2007, but that Trump’s election and a recent spike in deportation raids nationwide have rekindled fears.