LOS ANGELES—Hundreds of high school students walked out of classes today to march on City Hall and demand that the mayor update the city's sanctuary policies to better protect undocumented immigrants from the forthcoming Trump government.
“We want this city to be a sanctuary where we feel safe and where we’re not scared about our future,” said Xochil Ramirez, a junior at Roosevelt High School, who helped organize the march.
Today's walk out was the second of its kind in two weeks. The students are demanding city officials come up with a plan to protect their communities and recommit L.A. to being a sanctuary city, despite Trump's plans to punish sanctuaries by cutting federal funding.
The students who participated in Monday's march came from more than half a dozen high schools on the east side of Los Angeles, where with majority of students are Latinx. At Roosevelt High alone more than 95% of students are Latinx, and the school even has a club for undocumented students.
“Even though the president and Congress will be led by Republicans, we’re ready to stand united and defeat any obstacles that come our way,” said Ramirez, whose parents are from Mexico.
The city of Los Angeles made history when it became the first sanctuary city in 1979. Then-Police Chief Daryl F. Gates signed Special Order 40, which declared "officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person."
The Mayor’s office did not respond to Fusion’s request for comment. But at a meeting with immigrant rights advocates Mayor Eric Garcetti promised that L.A. will "speak up, speak out, act up, act out" if Trump tries anything that is perceived as "hostile to our people, hostile to our city, bad for our economy, bad for our security."
L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck also said on Monday that his department is “not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts,” according to the L.A. Times .
But rights activists say political goodwill isn't enough and that L.A. needs to do more to improve its sanctuary policies and recommit itself to protecting its immigrant population before Trump takes office.
“The existing policy is very much inadequate and will need to be improved upon even as it comes under attack from the Trump administration,” said Chris Newman, legal director at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who attended today's meeting with the mayor.
He says L.A could take cues from San Francisco, where the sanctuary law makes it more difficult for immigration officials to detain immigrants by baring the police department from using city funds to assist immigration enforcement, unless a judge issues a warrant.
The important thing is to strengthen the policy now before Trump gets into office, he says. “It’s neither a question of when or if, it’s a question of how a Trump administration will try to convert the LAPD into part of it’s deportation force,” Newman said.
For the students, it's about protecting their community, their families and their future in the United States.
“We needed to do this for ourselves, our parents and our undocumented students,” said senior Ruth Altamirano, the student body president at East Los Angeles Performing Arts Academy. “We want to promote peace and safety and be a shelter for our community.”