DeKALB – Kathia Morales said she didn’t want to attend Tuesday’s DeKalb School District 428 Board meeting where the board was to vote on a controversial welcoming resolution, but her mother convinced her to stand up for herself as an immigrant from Durango, Mexico.
"We've been living here for a while," Morales, 17, a senior at DeKalb High School, said after the board approved the resolution Tuesday. She began to cry at her next sentence. "I came undocumented when I was 4. It's probably the best decision my mom ever made."
Morales was one of dozens who showed up Tuesday in support of the resolution, which reiterates what’s already law: that the school district cannot share any identifying information with federal immigration officials about students and families, regardless of citizenship status. The measure was met with mixed opinions.
District 428 Superintendent Jamie Craven said approving it was about sending a message.
“This is clearly a topic that is going to elicit strong opinions,” Craven said in an interview after the meeting. “We want to send a message to our families, our children, that schools are a safe place.”
During the interview, Morales translated for her mother, Katalina Morales, who shared why she thought it was important to take her daughters to the meeting.
“She wanted to show us all the things that we have here in this country,” Morales translated for her mother. “That there are other people here that will and want to help us, and to show us that everything we have is not just handed to us, and that we can help other people.”
Members of Welcoming Western Counties, an immigrant advocacy group which pushed for approval of District 428’s resolution and a similar proclamation passed by the city of DeKalb in 2018, said next they hope to go before the DeKalb County Board to pursue its passage there.
Lizy Garcia Ramirez said her parents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 3. She said the public misunderstands the point of resolutions such as this one.
“This got taken very wrong when it was first put out,” Ramirez said. “I think training needs to be done for counselors, teachers, the board because if everybody was trained, this wouldn’t have been that big of an issue.”
She said those opposed to undocumented immigrants don’t understand the full picture.
“A lot of those comments say, ‘Just follow the rules like everybody else,’ ” Ramirez said. “But what they don’t realize is that the rules are not like that. You can come into this country legally, and trying to fix your status is not easy. Depending on each country, there’s different rules. The immigration system is extremely broken and this is why there are so many undocumented people.”