Arizona immigration law: Residents demand that district defy Senate Bill 1070

Community members are calling for the Phoenix Union High School District to implement a policy to keep school-resource officers from complying with Arizona’s new¬† immigration law

Their concern is that the sworn police officers assigned to campuses will be arresting students or their family members who are in the country illegally. School officials sought to assure residents that would not occur.

At a meeting this week, Eve Aguirre, a parent in the Phoenix Union district, demanded the district adopt a policy of non-compliance in the wake of Senate Bill 1070, saying the strict new immigration law negatively affects young people. The law takes effect July 29, four days before the first day of school.

Aguirre said she fears that the law, which makes it a state crime to transport illegal immigrants, could put her daughter and family members at risk.

“She has a lot of friends who are undocumented,” Aguirre said. “Am I supposed to ask these kids, ‘Who has papers? Only kids with papers can get in my car.’ You get criminalized if you have an undocumented person in your vehicle.”

School-resource officers are sworn police officers attached to schools by the local police department. Their salaries are funded from the School Safety Program, a state program paid for through federal grants. Statewide, 193 schools in 63 districts receive funding for a total of 183 officers, said Rani Collins, school-safety program administrator at the state Department of Education.

Phoenix Police Department legal advisers are reviewing the most recent language added to the immigration bill and are awaiting guidance this month from a board on state peace-officer standards regarding how to provide immigration training for their officers.

Phoenix Union Superintendent Kent Scribner, who sent a letter home to parents the day Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law, said the district will continue to honor U.S. Supreme Court ruling which, among other things, prohibited public schools from enforcing immigration law, requiring proof of citizenship from students or parents, or providing information on a student’s or family’s status to any outside agency, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is now part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We will not tolerate discrimination or harassment of our students or staff,” Scribner wrote.

Gabriel Trujillo, principal at Trevor Browne High in west Phoenix, said his school is hosting parent forums to answer questions and ease fears. The school estimated that 1,000 students from Browne walked out of school to protest and march to the Capitol on April 22, one day before Brewer signed the bill criminalizing the presence of undocumented immigrants. The bill also requires police to enforce federal immigration law.

“My kids are known for being politically active,” Trujillo said. “They write letters to the City Council, to the police. They do these things on their own. When I get to campus, my job is not about SB 1070. My job is to make sure the campus is secure and the students are educated.”

Amy Kobeta, chair of the Phoenix Union governing board, told the audience that the board cannot take action on items not on the agenda, but the board directed Scribner and board attorney Lynn Adams to look into the non-compliance policy request.

The district of 25,000 students, 78 percent of whom are Hispanic, also has a diversity of academic achievers. In addition to approving the new contract for the superintendent at the meeting, the board recognized three Gates Millennium Scholars: Josue Macias from Maryvale High and Ronald Gonzalez and Nelson Guillen from Camelback High.

Each year, about 1,000 of the scholarships from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are distributed nationwide.

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