TOM TORLAKSON, California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, who has already written all school districts in the state encouraging them to make public schools a “safe haven” for children whose families are vulnerable to ICE raids, filed a brief in the U.S. Ninth District Court on Wednesday, supporting Santa Clara County’s request for a preliminary injunction to halt Trump’s order to cut off federal funds to sanctuary districts. The order could affect funding for hundreds of cities, counties and schools across the country that have declared themselves sanctuaries or safe havens. (Trump’s order, issued Jan. 25, says, “jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with (federal immigration laws) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.”)
Torlakson’s brief claims that the Trump order is unconstitutional because it doesn’t define “sanctuary” and forces local agencies, including schools, to enforce federal immigration laws.
“The Executive Order places schools, school districts and county offices of education, who have merely identified themselves as safe havens for undocumented students, in the precarious position of losing large amounts of federal funds without warning, notice or clear guidance about what is meant by the order,” Torlakson said Thursday.
According to EdSource research, of California’s largest 25 districts, about half have passed resolutions offering protections for immigrants.
San Francisco, Richmond and two cities in Massachusetts have also sued to block the order, and 35 cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and Oakland, have filed briefs supporting Santa Clara’s suit. In all, more than 400 cities around the nation have declared themselves sanctuaries. And 57 school districts in California have declared themselves safe havens, according to the California Department of Education, though it is not clear if they all have used that term.
The federal government sends California schools about $8 billion a year, or 9 percent of their overall budget, which pays for free and reduced-cost meals for students from low-income families, among other services.
Today, an analysis from Politico’s Education blog [red emphases mine]:
‘SANCTUARY’ NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS: School districts across the country have declared themselves “sanctuaries” for immigrant students over the last few months in the face of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants. But the reality on the ground can be much more complicated as schools grapple with how to protect their students. “Sanctuary” isn’t a legal term – nor is it really a political term, in this context, says Francisco M. Negron Jr., chief legal officer at the National School Boards Association. Students, regardless of immigration status, have a constitutional right to access public education – and that means schools cannot do anything to chill that access, he told Morning Education. “Schools are complying with the law because students have a right to access public education – constitutionally, full stop,” he said. “Whether that’s considered sanctuary – that’s just a political definition. It’s clearly the law.”