NPS Hosts ‘Know Your Rights’ and ‘Schools As Safe Zones’ Workshops for Immigrant Families

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Barringer High School’s meeting on Tuesday is the most recent in a series of workshops aimed at supporting immigrant families

[Newark, NJ – April 05, 2017] Newark Public Schools (NPS) hosted an immigrant rights workshop on Tuesday, April 4 at Barringer High School in Newark, the latest in a series of immigration workshops throughout the district that have been attended by hundreds of Newark families. Newark Municipal Councilmember Carlos M. Gonzalez, as well as staff from UndocuJersey, Faith in NJ, and immigration attorney Masiel Valntin, Esq. spoke with Newark families about their immigration rights, the college admissions process, and resources and support services that are available in the community.

“Newark Public Schools is committed to giving all of our students, regardless of their immigration status, access to a quality public education,” said Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf of NPS, who recently issued a letter assuring all undocumented families that their right to education in Newark would not be affected by recent political events. “All of our families play an integral role in making Newark great, and it is important that we work together as a community to provide a sense of safety and reassurance in these uncertain times.”

The district began hosting workshops in December 2016 in response to feedback that families were in search of resources about immigrant rights. They will continue to hold this series of workshops through April 2017. Each workshop is designed to help educate Newark families about their immigration rights, ranging from providing information about how new policies affect Newark families to connecting undocumented students and families with resources and services that will help them navigate their higher education options. A majority of workshops are conducted in Spanish, while English speakers are equipped with interpretation devices. The next workshop is tonight, April 5th, at Technology High School.

“Since December, the district has heard from hundreds of undocumented students and immigrant families with questions and concerns,” said Margarita Muniz, Executive Director of Family and Community Engagement at NPS. “We are holding these workshops to show our support and to impart that Newark schools are a safe place for our students to learn and grow. Our staff has had many productive conversations with immigrant families and we plan to draw on what we have learned to better serve these important members of our community.”

In addition to hosting workshops, providing resources, and other communications, city government and school district officials have taken a number of measures to support undocumented immigrant populations. Mayor Baraka recently announced his commitment for the City of Newark to remain a sanctuary city to protect the rights of all citizens. Superintendent Christopher Cerf recently signed a petition to express his support for the continuation of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs and the Newark Board of Education also passed a resolution declaring schools as “sanctuaries” for immigrant students. NPS staff are regularly meeting with community-based organizations and community leaders to communicate that NPS schools are safe places for learning and dialogue for all students.

While school districts in New Jersey do not collect data on the status of students or families, Newark is a diverse community where approximately one out of every three Newark residents is born in another country, and a similar ratio of students speak a language other than English as a primary language at home. Last year, the city launched a municipal identification program issuing ID cards that allow undocumented immigrants to access state, city, financial, and cultural services. As of September 2016, the city issued nearly 10,000 ID cards.