Rep. Grijalva Asks National School Boards Association to Establish Safe Zones at Schools to Limit ICE Activity

Earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) showed up at a school in New York City looking for a fourth-grade student. This marked a departure from the policy in the Obama administration where ICE avoided arrests in “sensitive locations.”

Undocumented children can attend public schools according to the Supreme Court’s 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe. This has been the law for 35 years.

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) is fighting back saying that school grounds should be off-limits to immigration enforcement agents. Last week, he issued the following statement requesting that the National School Boards Association work with their School Board Members to develop protocols for dealing with ICE visits to schools:

“Our children should not be subject to Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and fear-mongering rhetoric, especially in what should be considered a safe zone — school. Parents entrust their children to teachers and staff to protect them and provide a nurturing environment away from home. It is saddening that Trump’s administration would have the audacity to go after a fourth-grade student. I commend the actions that school staff took regarding this very sensitive issue in ensuring the safety of their students. Incidents like those reported in New York are not stand-alone in our communities. They occur far too frequently and place an unnecessary burden on our children and their families.”

Immigration agents on a school campus can be disruptive to all students regardless of their immigration status. Their presence can raise anxiety, interrupt teaching and learning, and could be in violation of the constitution given the ruling in Plyler. We hope that schools all across the country develop protocols for dealing with ICE.

In California, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson has been committed to making sure that all students feel safe at school and has encouraged districts to pass resolutions saying that ICE is not allowed to enter campuses unless they have prior written approval from the Superintendent. But California may be the exception.

We need to to keep pressuring policymakers to keep all of our children safe at school so the focus can be on teaching and learning, not immigration enforcement.

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