Local opposition to Arizona law sought

At Tuesday’s Beaumont Unified School District board meeting, trustee Mark Orozco called on his fellow board members to consider a resolution opposing Arizona’s SB1070 immigration law, which he pointed out gives police in that state the right to detain anyone who is suspected of being in this country illegally, or for failing to provide proper documentation of citizenship.

“Under the new law, Arizona police now are required to stop and question anyone they reasonably suspect of being undocumented,” said Orozco, who is a history teacher at Marshall School in Pomona. “I am deeply troubled, and as an educator, I am disturbed by the lessons this law teaches our children about democracy, inclusion and nondiscrimination.”

Orozco called Arizona’s law an attack on civil rights of Arizona’s Latino population, and likened the situation to the way Jews were treated in Germany prior to World War II, when they were required to carry documentation with them at all times.

“The right of undocumented immigrant children to a K-12 public education has long been protected,” Orozco said. “This legislation may be the start of a very slippery slope. What’s next? Will lawmakers require teachers, education-support professionals and school employees to act as immigration agents?”

Orozco said that he feared the impact that potentially oppressive measures could “impede on the mission of teaching and learning.”

“I understand that my peers and some members of the community will probably criticize me … but it needs to be said,” Orozco said during board comments at the end of the meeting. “I am speaking not just as a board member or public official, but also as a leader of our community and a concerned American citizen who cannot sit by and be silent.”

Board President David Sanchez invited Orozco to draft a resolution to bring before the board at a future meeting for consideration.

Orozco’s comments received lukewarm applause.

A couple of people shared their reactions in interviews after the meeting — though since the issue is a sensitive one, some at the meeting declined to share their personal views: San Gorgonio Middle School Assistant Principal Peter Herman did not feel comfortable sharing his thoughts, and Beaumont High School Principal Marilyn Saucedo deferred comments to the superintendent.

Board member Susie Lara indicated that she will not likely support a proposed resolution.

“I am not happy that he brought that up,” she said. “I don’t feel that it is our business as a board — it has nothing to do with Beaumont Unified School District. It doesn’t affect Beaumont Unified. It’s a political issue.”

Brian Wood, principal of San Gorgonio Middle School, who was at the meeting, said, “My reaction would be, as an educator, I’m going to follow the law. I don’t like to mix my personal views with my professional responsibility,” he said. “When kids walk through our doors, we do the best we can to educate them regardless of what their background is.”

Superintendent Barry Kayrell was cautious with his comments.

“He has the right to ask” for a resolution, Kayrell said. “However, it’s a loaded gun. Let’s put it on an agenda and see if the resolution gets a second,” though he said, “boards should be very careful with political issues, especially in political times.”

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