Mountain Dreamers petitions Summit School District for protections against searches by ICE |

Mountain Dreamers petitions Summit School District for protections against searches by ICE

Summit High School Mountain Dreamers, in foreground holding their High Five certificates, pose alongside members of the Summit School District Board of Education at the administration office in Frisco on Thursday Jan. 16.
Courtesy photo

FRISCO — While social pressures and grades are common sources of anxiety for many students, it goes far beyond that for some. Students who are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program also worry about whether immigration officials will come to their homes or schools and take them away.

The DACA program allows young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and are living in the country illegally to remain here. They are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act. Opponents of the DACA program, which was implemented during the Obama administration, say it rewards people for breaking the law, encourages illegal immigration and hurts American workers.

At the Summit School District Board of Education’s regular meeting Thursday, members of Summit High School’s Mountain Dreamers club were on hand to present their arguments for revised language on a school board resolution committing to a “safe, equitable and welcoming school environment.”

The “Dreamers” have been advocating for language in the resolution that specifically promises for more robust protections against school and bus searches by ICE or Homeland Security officials.

The resolution outlines “that any and all contact from government agencies, officials and law enforcement are processed through the office of the superintendent with the assistance of legal counsel to ensure the protection of all district students’ constitutional and legal rights,” according to an email from district spokesperson Mikki Grebetz.

Among the presenters Thursday was Manuel Lopez, a Summit High senior and DACA recipient who described living a stressful life to support himself and his family. Lopez described his typical day to the school board, saying he gets up at 5:30 a.m. to work out at the Breckenridge Recreation Center, then attends school from 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. with rugby practice three times a week.

After school, he goes to work at three jobs throughout the week. Sometimes, he doesn’t get home until 11 p.m. or midnight and then has to do homework. He said he usually doesn’t get more than four or five hours of sleep.

“On top of all this stress, we have this fear of one day coming home and our parents won’t be there to greet us with the same warm smile,” Lopez said. “My brother also has this fear that I might not make it home, because even though I’m a DACA recipient, I can still be picked up or detained if I don’t have the right credentials.”

Lopez presented alongside fellow Mountain Dreamers Jessica Fernandez de la O, Emily Lopez, Crystal Martinez-Lopez and Maria Payan. They came to the board meeting to argue in favor of reintroducing language the group already had presented to the district for its “Safe, Equitable and Welcoming School Environments” resolution.

The resolution, citing the need to ensure all students can learn without fear of their safety, is “dedicated to protecting … students’ confidential information and ensuring that … students’ learning environments are not disrupted by immigration enforcement actions.”

While the “Dreamers” lauded the board’s efforts to pass such a resolution, they were not satisfied with how certain proposed language had been omitted from the draft resolution the board had scheduled to vote on that evening. 

The “Dreamers'” proposed language included requiring ICE or the Department of Homeland Security to have a federal or state search warrant to enter schools or other school property and not just an ICE warrant, educating faculty and staff on DACA and not asking students about their immigration status, and recognizing the anxieties and stresses faced by students who are DACA recipients or undocumented and supporting their mental health needs.

“The language has to do with keeping students safe who are immigrants or perhaps undocumented or DACA recipients,” Mountain Dreamers Executive Director Peter Bakken said. “It’s because of the terrible stresses and anxieties and health issues that come with their legal status with their family’s legal statues, especially with the toxic culture that we’re living in today around immigration enforcement.”

After the “Dreamers” presented, newly elected school board Secretary Gini Bradley told the students she was “incredibly impressed” with the work they put into the presentation and proposed resolution changes. Board President Bonnie Ward said the board was cognizant of their worries and assured them the differences in the proposed resolution were merely a matter of differing language and not meaning.

Board Vice President Kate Hudnut said the resolution had been handed to Superintendent Kerry Buhler, who then passed it onto the district’s legal team. Board Director Chris Alleman wanted to know why the lawyers chose to remove the recommended language.

The resolution was tabled until board members could research the issue further before making a decision.

The Dreamers were then awarded with “High Five” honors for their efforts to promote immigrant rights in the district.

“I would like to thank the board and how they received us,” Fernandez de la O said. “They received us with open ears, and they were willing to take a step back and say they were not educated enough to make a decision right now, and I think that shows. It’s good to know that we do have a board that’s willing to understand and make change, and it’s really comforting to know that they’re actually here to support us.”

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