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CHC Urges School Boards to Protect Children from Aggressive Immigration Enforcement

May 18, 2017
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After reports that federal immigration agents showed up at a Queens, New York elementary school to inquire about a fourth-grade student, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and CHC Members sent a letter to National School Boards Association President Kevin E. Ciak. The letter urges the Association to work with their members to develop protocols on how to address inquiries and visits from immigration enforcement agencies.
 
As stated in the letter, “We have a moral obligation to protect children in our communities, particularly in a school environment, where students and parents should feel that they are safe. It is imperative that we take all the steps necessary to ensure that children, regardless of status, are able to attend school and feel protected.”
 
The letter cites another example of the effect of aggressive ICE enforcement activity on students, “which resulted in the Las Cruces’s [New Mexico] public school system seeing a 66 percent spike in absences compared to the previous week—2,100 of the district’s 25,000 students missed school.” The CHC Members add that, “these are tangible measures of the fear and harm [that] these types of enforcement policies are having on families.  Unfortunately, the effects on learning from the stress these students feel cannot be readily determined.”
 
An analysis estimates that there are 5.1 million children under age 18, both U.S.-citizen and noncitizen, who are living with an undocumented immigrant parent. These vulnerable families are at risk if the Department of Homeland Security infringes on their policy to avoid enforcement actions at sensitive locations.
 
The letter was signed by: CHC Chair Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, CHC Immigration Taskforce Chair Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, and CHC Education Taskforce Chair Rep. Raúl Grijalva.
 
COPY OF LETTER
 
May 16, 2017
 
Kevin E. Ciak
President
National School Boards Association
1680 Duke St. FL2
Alexandria, VA 22314-3493
 
Dear Mr. Ciak,
 
Since the start of the Trump Administration, we have seen anti-immigrant policies and executive orders target immigrant and Hispanic communities. Unfortunately, this has caused fear and widespread alarm among undocumented and mixed-status families. This stress has been exacerbated by the fact that the Trump Administration has been reportedly conducting enforcement actions in or near sensitive locations, such as hospitals, churches and schools. Many parents now fear sending their children to school.
 
These aggressive enforcement activities have resulted in direct harm to Hispanic families and students. For example, U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted enforcement activities in Las Cruces, New Mexico in February, which resulted in the Las Cruces’s public school system seeing a 66 percent spike in absences compared to the previous week—2,100 of the district’s 25,000 students missed school. Two days after the raids, the city’s high schools’ absences went up by 25 percent and the elementary schools’ absences rose by about 150 percent.  These are tangible measures of the fear and harm these types of enforcement policies are having on families.  Unfortunately, the effects on learning from the stress these students feel cannot be readily determined. 
 
Just last week, we received reports that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) showed up at an elementary school  in Queens, New York seeking a fourth grader. In this case, the school reported that they turned away the USCIS agents. Unfortunately, these types of incidents are widely reported and instill fear and unease in immigrant families.
 
Given the multiple reports we have received of federal immigration agents visiting or patrolling near schools, it is critical that all school boards issue clear protocols and provide guidance to staff on how to respond in the event federal immigration authorities show up on school properties. Having these clear protocols in place will reassure immigrant parents that schools are a safe environment for their children.
 
We have a moral obligation to protect children in our communities, particularly in a school environment, where students and parents should feel that they are safe.  It is imperative that we take all the steps necessary to ensure that children, regardless of status, are able to attend school and feel protected. We urge the National School Boards Association work with their School Board Members to develop protocols on how to address inquiries and visits from immigration enforcement agencies.  These guidelines will help school staff better respond to new immigration enforcement practices. 
 
Please do not hesitate to contact our offices if you have any questions. We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
 
Sincerely,
 
# # #
 
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.