Children, no matter their immigration status, should never be denied an education.
That was a sentiment New Westminster trustees enshrined in policy by unanimously approving the province’s first-ever sanctuary schools policy this week.
“It should be natural,” trustee Casey Cook said of the policy. “The fact that we even had to go through this is, to me, quite surprising.”
The New Westminster Sanctuary Schools Policy, approved at a public meeting Tuesday, officially recognizes that students with precarious immigration status or no immigration status at all can access an education in the school district. Its intent is to create a welcoming and safe place for all students, no matter their family’s situation.
As outlined in the policy, immigration status is not a requirement to register students for school in New Westminster. It also prohibits Canada Border Service Agency officials or immigration authorities from entering schools or district facilities unless required by law, and forbids personal information of enrolled students or their families from being shared with federal immigration authorities unless required by law.
“We see so many stories of young immigrants achieving so much and being so successful, so why are we denying our young immigrants when they have so much potential to change? When they can bring positive change to the world, why are we holding them back?” New Westminster Secondary Grade 11 student Alejandra Rodas asked trustees and staff.
Nearly 100 people packed into the school board meeting to share personal stories and encourage trustees to approve the proposed policy. Originally from Colombia, Rodas immigrated to Canada three years ago. While getting an education was never a question when she arrived, she wants to make sure other immigrants, those without status, have the same opportunities she did.
“I feel that I’ve accomplished so much because of the support I’ve been given. So I think we should support all students, no matter of their immigration status. Every student should be given a chance to reach their full potential,” she said.
Tuesday night’s approval, which was celebrated with cheers from the public, is the culmination of almost a year’s worth of work by school district staff, trustees and community members on the sanctuary schools task force.
For more on the new policy, go to http://newwestschools.ca.