BY NOAH CASTAGNA
The Broward County Public School Board unanimously passed a resolution protecting immigrant students and their families earlier this month. The policy will turn Broward County public schools into safe zones for children of undocumented immigrants, (making Broward County the first school district in Florida to officialize safe zone policies through a resolution) and comes about in the wake of deportation fears under the Trump administration.
Under the new law, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents must have a warrant to enter schools or the locations of school-related activities. Information probes regarding students by ICE will be redirected to the school district attorney’s office.
The measure was proposed and championed by School Board member and former school teacher Robin Bartleman, who has previously sponsored programs such as PROMISE, where she worked with local law enforcement agencies to “Prevent Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support and Education.” In an interview with the Miami Herald, Bartleman offered sympathy for families affected:
“[Immigrant families] wanted to know that we had their backs, and now with this resolution we have their backs,” she said. “We weren’t afraid to stand up and say we’re going to protect our children.”
Bartleman was reportedly inspired to action by a high school senior abandoned in the United States after his parents were deported, and alongside the new resolution, the Broward School Board approved another new initiative: the “Safe Place Plan,” which would allow schools to work with volunteers and community organizations to prepare a plan of action in the case a child’s parents were deported and which would supplement teachers supplies to support affected students.
In response to the legislation’s approval, ICE released the following statement, detailing its discretion in enforcement regarding school zones and activities and implying that the new resolution is in actuality redundant:
“The ICE and CBP sensitive locations policies, which remain in effect, provide that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided, and require either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action. DHS is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.’’
But the policy reflects a greater trend of resistance towards the current administration at both a state and county level; back in February, Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz condemned Miami-Dade county for not pushing back against Trump’s stance on sanctuary cities. The same day Bartleman’s resolution passed, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam proposed a “safe zone” of the city’s own for undocumented immigrants. And Trump’s aggressive moves on immigration have emboldened more than just politicians.
“As a Latino I find the whole take on removing immigrants offensive and un-American,” junior Nicholas Gallardo said. “All children should always have the foundation of feeling safe and protected by not only their parents but by police and all US government.”
Overall the law has seen mixed responses from the community, with some praising what they feel to be the bold compassion behind the legislation and others calling for the board to put taxpayer dollars to use in other areas, such as improvement of schools.
“Resisting federal authority, obstructing law enforcement, selective endorsement of law and lawfulness, and refusing to cooperate with federal officials are not lessons I want taught to my children, and I certainly do not want to pay any taxes for that kind of indoctrination of our youth,” an anonymous Cooper City resident wrote to WLRN Miami.
The law has also seen adversity from those in support of Trump who have soured under the resistance to Trump administration policies at multiple levels of government.
“I find that local authorities have the right to protest towards altering laws in ways that are appropriate and help to find a happy medium,” junior Christopher Perry said. “However, when laws are outright challenged in this way it tends to lead to unhealthy and toxic relationships and instills the idea that laws are more of a set of guidelines. Laws exists for a reason, and they should be obeyed.”
Though the resolution has seen opposition, the Miami-Dade school board has reviewed similar legislation which would allow the superintendent to review immigration policies and assess what steps can be taken to protect undocumented students. The Miami-Dade proposal comes in the wake of a county court decision by Circuit Court Judge Milton Hirsch which ruled that a law (passed after President Donald Trump’s executive order regarding “sanctuary cities”) allowing the detaining of immigrants for the federal government was unconstitutional.
“Coming from a family of immigrants, [the new law] makes me happy and proud to be a resident of Broward County,” junior Kitana Rojas said. “If a child came to America for a better opportunity, then they should have that opportunity to receive an education as well as other things that escaped them in their home country.”