Schools Address Deportation Fears

Here’s a high-level update from the Washington Post about possible arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants by ICE, and the ways districts are trying to manage the uncertainty. The takeaway: many districts are trying to reassure students and parents, but they’re quite limited in what they can do.

On the number of students and parents who may be affected:

Millions of U.S. children face growing uncertainty at home because of shifts in immigration policy. The Pew Research Center estimates 3.9 million schoolchildren had an unauthorized immigrant parent in 2014 — or 7.3 percent of all schoolchildren. About 725,000 of those children were unauthorized immigrants themselves.

On whether arrests can happen at schools:

Historically, ICE agents have avoided schools. A 2011 memo says they are barred from arresting or interviewing people at schools, churches, hospitals and other “sensitive locations,” unless there is an imminent threat or they seek approval. Carissa Cuttrell, a spokeswoman for ICE, said the Department of Homeland Security “is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.” [Read the ICE memo that describes the agency’s “sensitive locations” policy]

Many school officials say they want to allay the fears of families. They have hosted educational and legal seminars for immigrants, and in some cases assigned staff to support them. In Harrisonburg, Kizner assembled a crisis response team for immigrant students and their families. He also sent home forms to parents, asking in English and Spanish: “In the event of family separation (accident, arrest, emergency hospitalization, etc.) who will take care of your child temporarily?”

The Prince George’s County school system in Maryland has worked with the county government to place bilingual “community resource officers” in schools to support students dealing with immigration-related problems.

Parent-teacher associations in Alexandria have organized “know your rights” seminars, with the first held this month in an elementary school auditorium. At that event, an attorney from the Tahirih Justice Center urged undocumented parents to think about who would care for their children and what would happen to their property if they are detained.

On the limits to protections schools can provide:

Catherine E. Lhamon, a former assistant education secretary for civil rights in the Obama administration, said […] that schools can take many steps to help families. But ultimately, she said, they must also acknowledge that they can’t guarantee anything about the direction of federal immigration policy.

Image by David Mcnew/AFP/Getty Images, copied from above-referenced article.

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