OPSB to vote on expanding protections for immigrant students

The Orleans Parish School Board is set to vote on expanding the guidelines for investigating children and questioning them about their immigration status.

NEW ORLEANS- One phone call after another, volunteer Stefan Suazo is calling Orleans Parish school parents, urging them to attend Thursday's school board meeting.

"They were like 'What's the meeting for?' And I explained what we were doing ... that we were allowing students kind of a safe haven in school and that we were enabling them to have a position where they shouldn't be fearful of law enforcement and immigration coming. And all she said was 'Whoa!! I'll be there!'" Suazo said.

The Orleans Parish School Board is set to vote on expanding the guidelines for investigating children and questioning them about their immigration status. 

The proposed policy would require law enforcement to report to the school principal and present a subpoena or court order, authorizing an interview.

"We have policies in place, and they're not strong enough," Mary Moran, Executive Director of Our Voice, Nuestra Voz said. "Data is already protected by Louisiana Student Privacy Act, and already protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA, a federal law."

Moran says their organization has been pushing this proposed policy for several months because she sees protections being rolled back.

"It's important that at this moment, we protect all children and their right to a public education," Moran said.

The issue hits home for Suazo.

"I'm a first generation American. My dad's from Honduras. My mom's from Germany. So I know that immigration is not really a bad thing. I think I'm a pretty decent person and I think my parents are pretty great people too," Suazo said. "We're Americans and we have a place in this country."

The push comes one week after President Donald Trump called for an end to the Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals or DACA, an immigration policy established by President Barack Obama in 2012.

Recently, Trump met with Democrat leaders to reach a deal offering new protections to the so-called "Dreamers" that the DACA used to protect. The specifics of the deal are still unknown though.

Today, the Orleans Parish School Board released this statement saying:

"School should be a safe place for all children. The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) holds this as a basic principle. OPSB policy already provides a framework and a set of procedures to be followed by direct-run schools regarding law enforcement in general. The change being proposed provides additional guidance to direct-run schools in the event immigration enforcement officials seek to question a student or seek student data or records."

Until the policy is voted on, Suazo plans on spreading the word, hoping these calls bring a large crowd to tomorrow's meeting.

"They're people. And they have rights, just like everybody else," Suazo said.

The Orleans Parish School Board meeting takes place Thursday, Sept. 14, at 5pm. 

© 2017 WWL-TV


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