What you need to know about immigration enforcement in schools
Aggressive immigration enforcement
A push by the Trump administration to more aggressively pursue the deportation of undocumented immigrants, have stoked fears in immigrant communities nationwide, advocates say, including at schools that serve students who are undocumented.
One question that’s arisen: Will federal law enforcement officials seek help from schools in finding, detaining and deporting undocumented students?
Earlier this month, state officials sent a letter to superintendents across the state laying out the factors schools officials should consider before sharing student information with federal law enforcement. The letter, from State Superintendent Brian Whiston and Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu, laid out how various state and federal civil rights laws impact undocumented students.
Here’s a look at some of the issues at play:
Are federal officials investigating undocumented immigrants at school?
One fear among undocumented immigrants is that federal officials will seek to enforce immigration laws at schools.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Rachael Yong Yow said the angency’s policy is to “generally” avoid enforcement at schools, as well as other “sensitive” locations such as churches and hospitals.
Enforcement at those locations, she said, requires “either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action.”
“DHS 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,” she said.
Will ICE follow the policy?
Immigrant advocates are skeptical.
Jess Hanson, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said ICE’s “sensitive locations” policy is merely guidance and is not legally enforceable.
She said immigrants are concerned about how closely the agency is following the guidance, citing media reports in which ICE agents allegedly took undocumented immigrants into custody at or near sensitive locations.
One such incident occurred in Los Angeles, when an undocumented immigrant was taken into custody by federal officials after dropping off his 12-year-old daughter at school, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
Such enforcement tactics are problematic, Hanson said, because they have a chilling effect that may result in undocumented immigrants not bringing their children to school over fear of being taken into custody.
“Students are going to be stunted if they are afraid in school,” she said.
What information must schools turn over to federal officials?
In short, it depends.
Some school officials, in letters sent to parents and posted on district websites, have pledged to protect undocumented students to the extent they can under the law.
Those letters have pointed out that, absent a court order, federal student privacy laws prohibit school districts from providing third parties, such as ICE agents, with information contained in student records.
In addition, law enforcement that “seek to use schools and students as a means to locate or access undocumented immigrants may violate the civil rights of students and, in some cases, parents, under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act as well What you need to know about immigration enforcement in schools | MLive.com: