MPS Board Creates Sanctuary District

Mar 31, 2017

Milwaukee Public Schools will serve as a sanctuary to protect students whose families may be in the country illegally from deportation or questioning on school grounds. The MPS Board approved the resolution Thursday night. It means staff won’t reveal, even if they know, the immigration status of students.

Last month, Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver issued a statement of support for all students, when some might have felt vulnerable because of new Trump administration policies.

“Milwaukee Public Schools believes in the equitable and fair treatment of all students and families. We welcome individuals of all ethnicities, religions, cultural backgrounds, immigration status and sexual orientation or identity. In this district, we are all valued, and no one is pushed aside. This is a safe haven of learning and support,” Driver says. 

READ: MPS Reassures Families: 'We Won't Share Immigrant Status With Federal Officials'

Then last night, the MPS Board designated the district as a sanctuary to protect undocumented students from deportation on school grounds. Driver says many parents have been asking questions since President Trump announced he was expanding the powers of ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, making it easier to deport immigrants in the country illegally. Driver says the district won’t cooperate.

“We do not ask for a student’s immigration status when they enroll. If we become aware of a student’s immigration status we will not share that information with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services,” she says.

Driver says in addition the sanctuary designation means MPS will not allow federal authorities onto district grounds.

Such proclamations are mostly symbolic, according to local Immigration Attorney Marc Christopher. Yet he says they are still significant.

“It’s important to understand that absent a warrant or a subpoena, a school district cannot and by policy does not, release any personal information about any student. So, in some ways it’s symbolic but given the political climate that we live in, I think that giving that extra layer of assurance to students and their parents, I think is extremely important,” Christopher says.

Christopher notes there is a growing trend toward different entities declaring themselves sanctuaries. The White House has threatened funding penalties against some. It has not however announced any intentions of deporting minors, nor have there been reports of ICE detaining unauthorized immigrants on school property. Yet some students have told MPS they feel fearful their parents could be picked up, during the school day.