California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco school officials Monday met with high school students to talk about their fears in the climate of increased hate crimes and attacks on immigrants following the recent presidential election.
In an event at Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School in San Francisco’s Portola neighborhood, some students told Newsom that due to anti-immigrant rhetoric they now feared their families would be deported, or that their friends who were immigrants were being forced to change their life plans due to fears of deportation.
Several of them had tears in their eyes as they spoke.
One girl who described herself as an immigrant said of the election results, saying the realization had made her feel like she was “less than anybody else”:
“It made me feel sad because I didn’t realize how many people didn’t like or accept us. … I decided I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing because they can’t stop me.”
Citing statistics showing an increase in hate crimes and harassment since the election, Newsom said he had sent a letter to all 58 county superintendents of education in California today asking them to create a way to report and track incidents of racism and bullying and emphasizing the need to maintain a safe school climate.
He also asked the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges boards last week to help protect student data and make sure campus law enforcement is not cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
Newsom said many students he has spoken to are afraid, and need assurance that leaders “have their back.” Even his 7-year-old daughter has expressed anxiety about her friends at school, about whether they will be able to return from a trip to Mexico:
“She picks it up on TV, she picks it up at school, so if she is feeling it, imagine what these 14 and 15 year olds are feeling.”
Interim San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Myong Leigh said the district would be sending out a letter to families this week with information about district policies and resources on immigration and other issues, in an effort to provide some reassurances.
The district has long had a policy of not inquiring about a student’s immigration status and not sharing information with federal immigration authorities, Leigh told the students:
“We protect our students first and foremost. … It’s not something that we’re going to back off on or negotiate around, so please know that we love you and we have your back.”