Teachers’ union wants students to get ‘know your rights’ immigration training

FILE - Texas classroom (NEXSTAR File Photo)
FILE - Texas classroom (NEXSTAR File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Amid recent concerns over potential raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in Central Texas, teachers’ union Education Austin is pushing to implement so-called “Know Your Rights” immigration education in every school in the Austin Independent School District.

“It’s very important that the families are prepared,” said Montserrat Garibay, the Vice President for Certified Employees at Education Austin.

“Because if a raid happens, we want to make sure that our families feel safe,” she said.

Since the election in November, the union has helped to conduct similar training sessions for members of the community at different AISD schools. The trainings would consist of members of the Texas Here to Stay Coalition working with immigrant parents of AISD students on what they can do in case there is an immigration raid.

Now, the union wants to take things up a notch by asking AISD to provide educational resources to all students and their families, inside the classroom and online on the district’s website.

Immigration advocacy group, United We Dream, is educating immigrant communities what to do if ICE approaches them at their homes.
Immigration advocacy group, United We Dream, is educating immigrant communities what to do if ICE approaches them at their homes.

“There’s a lot of families in the district that are from mixed-status families. Times are changing and people are very scared,” said Garibay. “We just want to provide this information. We feel that as educators, it is our ethical responsibility to provide information — that it’s number one, accurate, and reliable.”

The curriculum and resources could include: instructing families on what they should do if ICE comes to their door.

Garibay says it is important that resources are readily available no matter where a student attends, in and out of the classroom. “This is information that we want from pre-kindergarten, early childhood, all the way to high school because the families that are going to be affected range from newborns, all the way to high school students.”

Maplewood Elementary father, Gabriel Rojas, says education is key, even for younger students, and so he would support such immigration education in his daughters’ classrooms.

“I think it’s an excellent idea. I think the more prepared we are about what’s coming, or what might come, I think the level of fear might go down in our community–if we know what our rights are,” he said. “The more they know about their right and the rights of their peers in school, the better off we all will be.”

Other parents say they could understand why some people may oppose more direct immigration education inside a young child’s classroom.

“It’s a touchy one, you know, especially with what’s going on right now,” said Santos Canul, whose 6-year-old daughter also goes to Maplewood. “There’s a lot of people that are going to be intimidated by that and don’t want their kids knowing that that is going to be taught in schools.”

Regardless, Canul says he plans on teaching his children about immigration and other current events at home, and hopes their education on such topics will continue at school.

“They need to be ready,” he said. “They’re going to have questions of their own. So, why not be educated in school about it and at home?”

KXAN reached out to representatives of the district on Thursday. We were told that in general terms, AISD intends to support students and their families to the extent possible, but that they are still evaluating the current immigration situation and what it could mean for AISD.

State ‘Sanctuary’ policy bill extends to colleges

Additions to a bill to nix state funding for so-called ‘sanctuary’ cities also extend to colleges.

Clinical professor Elissa Steglich works with the University of Texas immigration clinic. She says estimates show 500 to 700 students at UT either lack status or are attend under the Obama-era policy letting the children of undocumented immigrants live in the U.S. in some cases. Steglich says the new Texas bill opens college police up to verbal requests from immigration officials.

“You could imagine a situation officer walks up to UTPD and says ‘go pick up that guy for me. I think he or she is out of status,'” said Steglich.

“It probably will never interject into a college campus situation because number one, those kids are probably on visas,” said State Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, who authored the bill.

Sen. Perry believes colleges needed to be included because he heard talk of extending ‘sanctuary’ policies to campuses. He says police would work with other local law enforcement.

“Those college campuses have a police force that does not prosecute, in other words they send those over to the county, typically, to be processed through,” said Perry.

Steglich says it’s still unclear which funding the state could legally cut if the bill passes and if universities don’t follow the state rules.

A spokesperson for the UT system says the university does not believe it has any policies that would trigger state cuts under this bill.

For more information about Education Austin, visit their website.