School or Border Control? | By Anushka Mehta

variety of protests are taking place on American campuses, pushing for administrations across the country to declare their university campuses ‘sanctuary campuses.’ In stark contrast, just across the pond, on Thursday many media outlets confirmed that “the [British] government is trying to make schools part of its agenda to create a “hostile environment” for migrants accused of entering the country illegally.” While schools have

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Theresa May, British Prime Minister. Image from independent.co.uk

historically been tied to politics through funding policies, control over curricula (e.g. sex ed), and more; the literal safety of many undocumented students rests on school administrations refusing to collaborate with administrations that seek to collect and deport these migrant students.

 

While the comparison is certainly different, due to the dialogue in the US focusing on college campuses versus the focus on primary education in England, the tension between school administrations and governmental oversight is clear in both cases. This past fall, the British Department of Education announced plans “to begin collecting nationality and country-of-birth data from almost 8 million pupils,” leading many to brace for further announcements that would lead to bills that resemble ones that May tried to push while Home Secretary in 2015; forcing schools to check children’s legal status and pushing them to the back of the queue for school places based on legality.

Hundreds of Swarthmore students walked out of class demanding the campus be a Sanctuary Campus

 

Meanwhile, more than 100 campuses staged walkouts nationwide in November, calling for administrations to pledge sanctuary for undocumented students, in attempts to protect them from deportation and ensure the protection of their right to an education. Some administrations have since declared their campuses sanctuary campuses, including my own alma mater, Swarthmore College.

The use of school sites to collect data on students is a terrifying one; and as we see the repercussions of populist regime changes in both the US and the UK, schools will be important spaces to focus on to see polarized political views play out. As undocumented students become targeted, schools’ responses to protecting them will become increasingly important, as we watch as schools reify their status as political sites and not merely educative spaces.

References:

Bradley, G. (2016, December 1). Don’t help the state bully migrants – boycott the school census. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/01/bullying-migrants-boycott-school-census.

Smith, V. and Spock, T. (2016, December 2). Swarthmore Board Pledges Sanctuary for Undocumented Students, All Community Members. Swarthmore College News and Events. Retrieved from http://www.swarthmore.edu/news-events/swarthmore-board-pledges-sanctuary-undocumented-students-all-community-members.

Wenzke, M. (2016, November 16). ‘Not on our campus’: American students stand up against Trump. Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2016/11/16/students-protest-sanctuary-campuses/#QbEJqgO3EOqR.

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