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School trustees condemn Arizona immigration law

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday night unanimously passed a resolution condemning Arizona’s new laws on illegal immigration, demanding their repeal and calling for restrictions on district personnel traveling to the state.

The resolution, initially proposed by board President Richard Barrera, was in response to laws passed in Arizona last month that allow local law enforcement to question people on their immigration status for reasonable cause.

The laws prompted an outcry from civil rights activists and prompted condemnation ranging from the San Diego City Council to the Obama administration, despite polls showing the public backs the actions of the Arizona Legislature.

Less than 15 people spoke to the board on the topic, a fraction of the number of speakers that appear for other subjects, and the debate was civil.

Gus Chavez said the new laws created a “state of siege atmosphere for Latinos.”

Javier Valdovinos, of the San Diego chapter of La Raza Educators, compared Arizona’s actions to how the Nazis treated the Jews in Germany.

“We need to remind students we can’t remain silent when they see wrong,’ Valdovinos said.

Only three people spoke out against the resolution.

“We elected the school board of this city to educate our kids,’ not get involved in outside issues, said the Rev. David Brown.

Another opponent called the resolution a waste of time and money and the third described it as “divisive.”

The resolution says the illegal immigration legislation “undermines fundamental civil rights and civil liberties and poses a special threat to people of color who live in and travel through Arizona.”

The laws “criminalize unlawful presence,” will lead to “racial profiling” and will threaten public safety in Arizona and, potentially, San Diego by removing trust between the Latino community and law enforcement, according to the resolution.

When Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law April 23, she said she ‘will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona.”

“As committed as I am to protecting our state from crime associated with illegal immigration, I am equally committed to holding law enforcement accountable should this statute ever be misused to violate an individual’s rights,” Brewer said.

Barrera’s original version called for the district to advise students and parents against travel to Arizona, but the clause was removed.

“If we’re truly concerned about our children, I wonder why we don’t send a travel advisory 30 miles south,” said board member Katherine Nakamura, in reference to violence in the Tijuana drug trade that has claimed hundreds of lives annually.

The warning was replaced by a line calling for staff to develop a policy restricting travel by district personnel to conferences in Arizona.

A provision was also added calling on the U.S. Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform.