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Tacoma Public Schools call for ‘safe zones’ for students who wish to talk about immigration concerns

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TACOMA, Wash. — As Seattle marks the map as a sanctuary city, its neighbor Tacoma says it can’t afford to be.

“I wish I had the luxury like New York, L.A. and Seattle with a giant tax base, they can say I don’t need $85 million; in Tacoma, that money matters,” Tacoma Mayor Strickland said.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last Wednesday promising to withhold federal money from what it calls sanctuary jurisdictions that protect people who are living in the country illegally.  Seattle has declared itself a “sanctuary city.”

During a City Council session Tuesday Tacoma’s mayor voiced concerns with Trump`s immigration policies but said without federal money, city services would be in jeopardy.

“Without federal funding, we wouldn`t have Light Rail going to Hilltop,” Strickland said.

The mayor says without federal funding, things like transportation, housing for the homeless and services for vulnerable communities would be in jeopardy.

On the same day Tacoma took a stance not to be a sanctuary city, the head of its schools called for another kind of haven.

“This safe zone is just to provide students a place to talk,” Tacoma Public Schools Schools Superintendent Carla Santorno said.

Santorno directed all Tacoma schools to create a space where students can express concerns.

“They are afraid for their friends, family and themselves,” Santorno said.

Some parents on Wednesday said they liked the idea because at home children are asking tough questions.

“We mostly talked about if their friends wouldn`t be able to play with them anymore and if their parents were visiting other countries couldn`t come back,” parent Becca Ford said.

In an open letter to all parents, the superintendent made it clear all kids are equal in the classroom and it doesn’t matter how they got there.

“Educate everyone who comes through our doors and our job is to prevent any kind of harassment and bullying,” Santorno said.

According to a Pew study, nationwide the average elementary classroom has two students with undocumented parents.

Although Tacoma is not a sanctuary city, the mayor said her police department will not ask anyone about immigration status and all city services will be provided to undocumented immigrants.