July 16th marked the beginning of a new initiative for Mission Graduates’ Parent Partner Program (PPP). A result of recently passed Proposition N, the Non-Citizen Voting Rights program will allow non-citizen parents of students in San Francisco public schools to vote for members of the San Francisco Board of Education, ensuring the elected officials are meeting the needs of San Francisco’s immigrant families.
The Parent Partner Program, with an active network of over 40 parent leaders throughout Mission District and Excelsior schools, will play an integral role in the coming months, as Latino families are educated about their rights, and informed of the very real risks that come with this new platform.
Program Director Eric Cuentos explained, “The objective of this education initiative is to ensure that immigrant parents truly understand the risk and benefits of these new voting rights, so they can make a decision that is right for their family.”
“Unfortunately, this [voter initiative] is not happening in a vacuum. We are living in a climate of intimidation and discrimination, especially for Latino immigrant communities nationally. There is an incredible fear that participation in the civic process could actually lead to negative repercussions. We must educate our families on the risks as there is no way to guarantee that information shared through voter registration will not fall into the hands of federal government officials.” Cuentos added.
And education around eligibility and individual risk-assessments will play a major role in the outreach to the community in the coming months. In partnership with immigrant advocacy groups such as African Advocacy Network, Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Causa Justa, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, La Raza Community Resource Center, Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), and spearheaded by Chinese for Affirmative Action, this coalition is coming together to help identify qualifying parents and guardians whose immigration status is already known to the federal government, and educate them of this new avenue for advocacy.
While community organizations take steps to ensure the safety of San Francisco’s’ diverse immigrant communities, the message this effort sends speaks to the importance of giving a voice to those without. MEDA’s Community Leadership Development Manager, Lucia Obregon, spoke at Monday’s press conference, saying, “Noncitizen parents, who make up a third of the school district, should be included and integrated into the social and political fabric of San Francisco.”
At Monday’s press conference, champions of the initiative Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Norman Yee, and Hillary Ronen spoke of the importance of including immigrant voices in decisions that affect their students.
Ronen shared, “As a parent of a child in SF unified school district, who the majority of her classmates are immigrant, I have seen that her education is strengthened when her classmates’ parents are involved and engaged in decisions that are made in her school. Why would we not want our parents invested in the classroom of their children?”
Prospective voters can request a non-citizen voter registration form in-person at the Department of Elections, online or by phone. To be able to register to vote in the Board of Education election, non-citizens must be residents of San Francisco, at least 18 years old on election day and parents, legal guardians or caregivers of children under the age of 19 who also reside in San Francisco.
For more information, visit the San Francisco Department of Elections website.