A group of Anaheim students and the American Civil Liberties Union are calling on the Anaheim Union High School District to establish a sanctuary policy to protect students, staff and families who are unauthorized immigrants.

Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO), a grassroots organizing group based in local churches, said in a news release Monday it plans to lobby the school board at its Tuesday meeting.

The group said more than 50 people, including students, plan to attend the board meeting to share the experience of undocumented students in the district.

“We demand the right to feel safe in school,” Daniel Ayala, 17, one of the Anaheim High School student organizers, said in the news release.  “As young people, our focus should be receiving an education and not having to worry about not only our status but if our parents are in danger just for picking us up from school.”

Orange County has an estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants. Santa Ana Unified School District passed a resolution earlier this year reaffirming the rights of undocumented students, while the Garden Grove Unified School District passed a resolution declaring the district a “safe haven” for all immigrants.

The Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD)  also has held workshops for students and their parents to answer questions about how changes to immigration rules might affect them.

The county’s only sanctuary city is Santa Ana. Sanctuary policies vary greatly city to city, but in general it means law enforcement and other officials don’t ask individuals about their immigration status. In some cases it means local law enforcement doesn’t cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in tracking down or arresting undocumented immigrants.

Anaheim city council members have referred to the sanctuary issue, but not discussed it in detail. Councilwoman Lucille Kring said last week that the council should take a vote on the issue.

ICE has had a long-standing policy of agents avoiding enforcement activity near “sensitive locations” such as churches, hospitals and schools, although immigrants’ rights groups have raised alarm about recent arrests outside churches and schools.

In February, a woman was arrested by immigration officials at an El Paso, Texas, courthouse where she was seeking a protective order against a boyfriend she accused of abusing her. At least two unauthorized immigrants were arrested outside a hypothermia shelter in Virginia that month.

The Los Angeles Times also reported last week that an immigrant was arrested by ICE while dropping his 12-year old daughter off at school in Los Angeles.

In all of those cases, ICE officials denied any change in their policy regarding sensitive locations.

The board meeting begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7. The groups will also hold a press conference in front of the board room at 5 p.m.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo. 

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