School District’s Residency Verification System Stokes Immigration Fears
In a controversial move, one school district in affluent West Marin County has contracted with global corporation Thompson Reuters to check the residency status of its students. The $5,500 agreement was entered into by Ross Valley School District Superintendent Rick Bagley in April. It will allow the district to take advantage of Reuters’ CLEAR (Consolidated Lead Evaluation and Reporting) program to ferret out students whose families are living outside the district’s boundaries for one year. Those attending the school illegally will be referred to the district attorney for prosecution.
“Why not use a tool that’s been made available?” Bagley asked Ethnic Media Services, noting the district has a responsibility to preserve classroom space and education quality for its students. “It’s like using a pencil or a computer.”
This computer, however, has a controversial history.
Reuters has long been criticized for its ties to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Immigration advocates now worry that Ross Valley’s relationship with the company will bring unwelcome enforcement measures into the community and discourage some immigrant families from sending their children to school.
Speaking at an Aug. 14 board of trustees meeting, Reuters tried to allay some of those fears.
“We do not share any information we would receive from you with any law enforcement agency,” said spokesman Anthony Cicchese. “Furthermore, we do not ‘upload’ any information you would enter into a CLEAR program. There is no information sharing from you to us.”
The fear alone may be enough for some parents. Ross Valley’s decision comes in the midst of a highly charged environment over immigration. Anxieties have become so high that Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued a directive in December 2016, stating that “our schools are not and will not become an arm of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement. Parents should know they are welcome on our school campuses regardless of their immigration status.”
The Ross Valley School District appears to be the only one in Marin County using the CLEAR program.