Mayor And LAUSD Board President Reaffirm Commitment To Protect Undocumented Students

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LAPD Hollenbeck Community Police Station Captain Martin A. Baeza, Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer stand with students outside of Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights (Photo by Julia Wick/LAist)

Mayor Eric Garcetti and top LAUSD officials held a closed-door meeting with a group of student leaders on Monday morning to address and allay student fears, and to reaffirm their pledge to protect the district's undocumented students. Garcetti was joined by Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Steve Zimmer, Superintendent Michelle King and LAPD Hollenbeck Community Police Station Captain Martin A. Baeza for the meeting, which was held at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. The teenagers who took part in the closed-door meeting included student leaders from both LAUSD and charter schools, according to Garcetti, who addressed the press after the meeting.

Last week, the LAUSD board voted to reaffirm its campuses' status as safe zones for undocumented students. The resolution stipulates that school staff will bar federal immigration agents from entering a campus without the approval of the superintendent or the district's lawyers.

"I'm quite sure that if the President-elect had joined us here at Roosevelt High School today, it would be a lot more difficult for him to speak using the rhetoric that he used during the campaign," LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer said after the meeting, praising "the beautifully diverse and incredibly hopeful representatives of our student leadership" who participated.

"I want to reiterate what we have said together with the mayor and together with Chief Beck ever since the election: our schools are safe for all children. They are safe for all families," said Zimmer. According to Zimmer's estimates, at least 100,000 LAUSD families could be affected by the incoming President's immigration policies (meaning that some or all family members are undocumented).

"We ask that our students and their families continue following their dreams through public education in Los Angeles," Zimmer continued. "We ask that you continue to use our school sites as resources. And, most importantly, we want to make very, very clear that every Los Angeles Unified school, every school that we authorize is safe for families and students. And just like Chief Beck has said, that will not change. That did not change of November 9th, and that will not change in January. It is the policy of this district and will continue to be the policy that we will not be cooperating with federal enforcement actions as it relates to immigration."

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LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer answers questions at Monday's press conference. (Photo by Julia Wick/LAist)

"We will hope that the federal government will work with us to continue the economic progress and security that has come from normalizing people’s statuses," the mayor said, underscoring the importance of L.A.'s undocumented population to the city's economy.

"When people got their [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] DACA status, we saw their wages go up 40%," Garcetti said. "If you push people back into shadows—because you won’t be able to deport everybody—guess what that does for American citizens? It depresses our wages, because employers know they pay some employees under the table less than minimum wage. When we bring people into the light, it helps everybody’s economic success."

Student leaders told LAist that the mayor and LAUSD representatives listened to their concerns during the meeting, and urged students to remain hopeful. "It made me feel safe and a lot more supported," Janette Vidal, a 17-year-old student at Alliance Marc & Eva Stern Math and Science High School, told LAist after the meeting. According to Vidal, the mayor also discussed alternatives to walkouts with the students (LAUSD students have planned a number of large-scale walkouts since Trump's election).

"They said 'Hope for the best but prepare for the worse,' that's what caught my eye the most," Vidal said. "It's always the idea of—let's say an earthquake happens—you're prepared for the earthquake to happen, but you're still hoping it won't happen. It's the same idea, which is true. We don't know if Mr. Trump is going to follow through with the rumored [policies], but we're trying to stay hopeful and prepared."

"We're all just waiting. That's all we can do right now—wait and see what happens in the following years," Abigail, an undocumented junior at Roosevelt High School, told LAist.