BY JON CRONIN
Mayor Bill de Blasio and city Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina recently assured immigrant parents across the city that their children would be safe in school in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigrants and arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in the five boroughs.
According to city school policies, an ICE officer’s ability to enter a school is left up to its principal and city Department of Education attorneys. Otherwise, ICE agents are not allowed to enter public schools.
Diana Eusebio, of Immigrants Day of Action and a staff member of NYS Youth leadership Council, said that leaders at schools across the city should make no exceptions.
“We must restrict ICE access to students,” she said.
At a Feb. 28 meeting of the Panel for Education Policy in Manhattan, teachers pleaded with de Blasio and Farina to do more.
One school educator with eight years of teaching under her belt stood before the PEP and asked to put the immigrant liaison role— who would act as a direct point of contact for immigrant students and their families— on the fast track. She said that the role is something the group has worked on in the United Federation of Teachers’ delegate assembly.
She suggested that the role could be filled by someone who is a teacher, counselor or social worker.
“The union has started talking about what this role might look like,” she said. “Someone who feels safe in that role to make connections and provide resources. It’s important for immigrant youths to feel secure in the spaces they come to school in every day.”
Jessica Cosby, a seventh grade teacher, said that she has seen students get arrested when they use their student MTA card on days they forgot their school ID and noted that students who have stood up to those bullying immigrant friends have been arrested and can now could face deportation.
“With these updated guidelines, we are reinforcing the fact that a school is a safe and protected location,” de Blasio said. “We will not allow ICE agents to threaten that protection, disrupt classes or take any action that would be detrimental to our students, whose safety is our number one concern.
Angy Rivera, co-director of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, told the Queens Tribune, said that recent actions by ICE and Trump had left immigrant parents feeling skittish.
“We’re seeing everything from parents not wanting to send their kids to schools to making older siblings guardians,” Rivera said.
She added that students are increasingly anxious and teachers are working with families to discover which resources are available for students with undocumented family members. Rivera said that her organization also works to develop “dream teams” in schools that act as support systems for immigrant students.
However, the leaders of community education councils in Queens said that they have not heard anything regarding ICE visits at borough schools.
“No, ICE is not going into schools,” said Nick Comiainni, president of CDEC 24, which covers western Queens. “I haven’t heard of one [instance]. No one has come to a meeting with that concern. Once a kid is in school, they’re a student.”
And Harold Paez, president of CDEC 27, which covers such neighborhoods as Ozone Park and Howard Beach, said that he had also not heard of any incidents involving ICE at Queens schools.
“My stance on the issue is that the policy is to enforce the immigration laws as they stand,” said Paez, a registered Republican and son of immigrants. “[But] children should not be afraid to go to school.”
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin.