Activists for undocumented students and workers temporarily disrupted an education symposium focused on immigration Saturday morning.
About 10 protesters, wearing white and bearing the word “sanctuary” written on parts of their bodies, shouted over Chancellor Gene Block as he tried to deliver his welcome speech to teachers, principals and other school administrators at the Educational Leadership Program symposium, “Moving Forward in Education: Responding to the Challenges of the Next Four Years.”
“Emails, emails, you’re on top, sanctuary now or we won’t stop,” the protesters chanted.
The symposium aimed to provide a forum for experts to discuss changes to immigration and education policies initiated by the new presidential administration.
The protesters left after about 10 minutes to applause from the crowd and praise from two legislators in the audience.
Kevin de León, the California State Senate president pro tempore, said he had heard the protesters loud and clear. De León authored Senate Bill 54, which would prohibit state and local law enforcement from using their resources to enforce immigration law. The bill passed the Senate early April and has moved to the state Assembly.
“We respect your passion for this very important issue impacting not just students and families, not just those in Los Angeles, but in the nation,” de León said.
He also said state and local authorities would take the federal government to court over immigration laws and environmental regulations if necessary.
“(Our strategy) is nonpartisan,” he said. “It’s inclusive of everybody. We want to protect our economic prosperity and people.”
State Sen. Ricardo Lara said he thinks some school officials should stop acting as immigration agents by preventing undocumented students from accessing resources such as mental health or college planning services.
He added he thinks California’s efforts to integrate immigrants into society, such as laws that give undocumented students in-state tuition, have made the state a leader in policies that help make life easier for immigrants.
Lara also said he thinks undocumented immigrants should not have to be afraid to seek the services they need to stay alive.
“Let’s take this opportunity to empower (undocumented immigrants) so that we have to be responsible and act accordingly, but we also have to pursue our dreams,” Lara said. “Nothing is more important than your life.”
Outside the symposium, the Los Angeles chapter of Democratic Socialists of America and several UCLA groups held a teach-in to educate participants about the policies required to establish a sanctuary campus and city.
Sprawled on blankets on the grass under trees outside of Moore Hall, audience members listened to labor activists explain how they are advocating for undocumented workers and students in various parts of Los Angeles, including UCLA and Koreatown.
One person who had been detained by immigration authorities described his time in custody and the complex series of planes, buses and vans on which he traveled before being released.
The group also sang union songs to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” expressing solidarity with undocumented immigrants and workers.
A panel of experts inside the symposium also discussed how President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and other policies could affect schools and students.
Hiroshi Motomura, a UCLA law professor who specializes in immigration law, said the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement plan could be broken down into three facets: law, power and vision.
Trump’s laws rely on keeping people out, such as the executive order affecting travel from six predominantly Muslim countries and funding for a wall along the Mexican border, Motomura said. He added the Trump administration has loosened laws to prioritize deportation of all people staying in the country illegally, rather than just violent criminals.
Motomura said Trump has also delegated more power to individual U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Linda Lopez, chief of the Office of Immigrant Affairs of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, said the city is working with other cities and jurisdictions to protect its immigrant population.
“I think there is a mass coalition opportunity for cities to come together around this point,” Lopez added. “Cities are definitely working with one another to see what their next moves should be.”