The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education introduced a resolution this week creating a study group that will work with immigrant rights’ groups and partners to determine how to expand school board elections to all parents, grandparents and guardians of students, regardless of their immigration status to give caregivers a say in their child’s education.
Ensuring the confidentiality immigrants who register to vote will be a top concern for the study group, author of the resolution Board Member Kelly Gonez, who authored the resolution, said in a press release, adding, “Especially in today’s anti-immigrant climate, we are particularly focused on assuaging any fear of retaliation."
The initiative is part of the district's greater effort to make LA Unified a safe haven district, and board members hope the process will empower families, regardless of immigration status, to participate in the district’s decision-making process.
As anti-immigration policies escalate, many districts are looking for ways to put noncitizen parents at ease and facilitate their continued participation in their children's education. San Francisco also recently opted to allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections, regardless of their immigration status, but noncitizens must provide their address and date of birth to register.
Perhaps as a result, only 35 noncitizens had signed up as of Oct. 23. Flyers distributed to potential voters outline the risks of registering and having their information be made public to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies.
For noncitizens, registering to vote could mean putting themselves and their families at risk of deportation, which is a terrifying thought for students and families. In August, a massive ICE operation in Mississippi ended in 680 arrests, and teachers have reported high student anxiety over potential deportations.
Opposition to the resolution is calling on the district to scrap the initiative, saying it is a "bad idea" because the "privilege of voting is one that rightly belongs to citizens" and that those who cannot vote should not be able to simply because they are stakeholders.