Central Okanagan school district considering sanctuary schools policy

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The Central Okangan school board is considering a proposal geared toward making it simpler for teenagers with precarious immigration standing to attend native schools.

It would contain creating a proper sanctuary schools policy.

RAMA Okanagan, a neighborhood group that advocates for migrant farm staff, is supporting the proposal and might be presenting to the board on Wednesday night time.

RAMA Okanagan co-founder Amy Cohen stated her fundamental message might be that “all children deserve to go to school and they have that right regardless of their status.”

“Our best estimates are in the Okanagan there are probably hundreds of people without status. How many of those have children? We are not sure, but I would say that even if this helps one single family then it is worth it,” stated Cohen.

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The advocacy group says a sanctuary schools policy would remove boundaries to enrollment.

“For example, broadening the types of documents that families can use to enroll their kids in school, not requiring proof of migration status for kids to enroll,” defined Cohen.

“The second part of sanctuary school policies [is] about ensuring schools are safe zones: that schools promise not to share families information with federal authorities unless they are compelled to do so by law.”

Trustee Norah Bowman is bringing ahead a movement at Wednesday night time’s board assembly that requires the Central Okanagan School District to develop a sanctuary schools policy.

“We welcome all children in our schools…the policy would mean that structurally we are prepared and we can do things like speak to the Ministry of education and Child Care and ask for funding for students who might have precarious visa status. We don’t really have a mechanism for doing that right now,” stated Bowman.

Bowman was impressed by the New Westminster School District. That district was the primary and, thus far, is the one district in B.C. to undertake a sanctuary schools policy.

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“We heard from them that they had six students in one year so it is not like an overwhelming number but for those few students it is a really big deal,” stated Bowman.

“The other reason I find this important is it speaks to our values of equity and welcoming everyone. That is what public schools are for.”

RAMA Okanagan is hoping different districts will undertake sanctuary schools insurance policies past the Central Okanagan.

Asked for a written touch upon sanctuary schools insurance policies, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) offered an announcement.

“All individuals who are subject to enforcement action by the CBSA have access to due process and procedural fairness. Those being removed have either exhausted, or chosen not to pursue, further legal recourse and have no legal right to remain in Canada,” stated the assertion from senior spokesperson Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr.

“The CBSA strives to balance its obligation to enforce immigration laws in a fair and consistent manner, while mitigating risks to individuals, the general public and officers. There is no legal restriction preventing the CBSA from carrying out necessary enforcement actions outside a school to execute an arrest warrant. However, whenever possible, the Agency prefers to engage with the individual(s) subject to immigration enforcement with the goal of achieving voluntary compliance.”

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