Of the Keizertimes

It’s barely 10 days into the school year, and McNary High School Principal Erik Jespersen has already had several conversations about the impact of a federal decision to roll back protections provided to undocumented students through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“I know that we have some (Deferred Action students) and there are some students and families that are concerned. Our stance is that we are wanting to support all of our students,” Jespersen said. “I’m certain that despite the anxiety there’s a lot of questions to be asked and answered.”

On Sept. 5, the Trump administration announced it would wind down the DACA program that provides opportunities for work permits, drivers licenses and other benefits in exchange for registering with the federal government. Only undocumented residents who entered the country before their 16th birthday qualify for DACA protections. Unless Congress comes up with an alternative by March 5, 2018, those registered under DACA could be deported.

The Salem-Keizer School District planned to address the issue at a school board meeting Tuesday, Sept. 12. However, the board adopted an inclusivity resolution in January mandating fair treatment of all students.

One of the concerns that has arisen is whether schools would allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents access to schools. The board will review policies and procedures for employees if ICE agents turn up at Salem-Keizer campuses.

“Short answer, we are not authorized to allow them access to our students,” said Lillian Govus, director of community relations and communications for the school district.

Jespersen said the goal is for all Celtic students to feel safe and secure, but the uncertainty regarding the future of DACA has some students afraid to fill out college applications. That is at odds with the mission of making all students college or career-ready by graduation.

He is encouraging everyone to take a deep breath and see what happens next as lawsuits filed to block the ending of DACA protections make their way through the courts. Oregon is one of numerous states suing to stop the Trump administration’s actions.

“What I want people to know is that the school is backing all of our kids and all of our families regardless of the political climate. My number one job is looking after our kids,” Jespersen said.