NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — For weeks, rumors have floated around the city that some undocumented immigrants are afraid to go to work or school.
Aubrey Johnson, superintendent of New Brunswick Public Schools, said last night that he and his employees have the backs of all students, including undocumented immigrants. The district has various polices in place that protect students’ rights and privacy, he said.
“This is absolutely the case, regardless of race, gender, national origin, immigration status, creed or sexual orientation,” Johnson said during the Board of Education’s Feb. 21 meeting. “New Brunswick Public Schools is fully committed to helping our students meet the challenges we face during these tense times.”
Concerns over the possible detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants began to spike after the election of President Donald Trump. Since his inauguration and a series of high-profile immigration raids, those worries heightened even more.
And yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security released documents that outlined how Trump plans to tackle immigration issues. Among other things, the president reportedly hopes to abolish privacy protections for undocumented immigrants, solicit the help of local cops and streamline the deportation process.
It’s unclear how any single school board’s privacy policies, including those in New Brunswick, might hold up if put to test by the Trump administration.
Even so, Johnson said he has been meeting with teachers, residents and local leaders to discuss the issues at hand. School officials are also compiling a list of “support resources” that will soon be made available to students, their families and teachers.
“Certainly, advocating for our students in the face of difficulties is a serious responsibility,” Johnson said. “I’m fully confident our faculty, students, support staff and administration are all up to the task.”
That task is greater in few other New Jersey school districts.
New Brunswick Public Schools’ Hispanic population is 88 percent, an overwhelming majority of the student body. Roughly 40 percent of the city’s population, meanwhile, comprises immigrants, according to a report from Rutgers University.
Johnson is but the latest figure in New Brunswick to voice his support for undocumented immigrants in the area.
City and county officials, community leaders, residents and Rutgers University students have come out in droves to try to protect that population and denounce Trump and his policies. Just last week, some city stores shut down to take part in a protest and march that was designed to show what a day without immigrants would look like in the Hub City.