Equity & Diversity

If Immigration Agents Come Knocking, Schools Must Follow These Steps

By Corey Mitchell — March 13, 2017 2 min read
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Following the lead of dozens of school systems around the nation, Broward County, Fla., school leaders passed a resolution that affirms that they will do everything they can to protect undocumented students who are on school grounds or participating in off-site school-related activities.

As is the case elsewhere, Broward County’s memo makes clear that federal agents seeking student information, or access to students, need to produce a warrant or another court document signed by a judge, and the school district’s attorney must review the order.

But while most other districts passed resolutions that are several paragraphs long, Broward County’s exhaustive five-page policy includes a glossary that defines terms such as immigration status, immigration agent, and enforcement action.

The Broward County resolution also clarifies that staff in the 270,000-student district, which includes the city of Ft. Lauderdale, shall not ask questions about the immigration status of students or their parents. It also requires the district to develop a plan within 30 days to help students who are left without guardians if their parents are detained or deported.

In January, President Donald Trump issued executive orders that called for a firmer crackdown on undocumented immigrants and hiring thousands more federal agents to track down people living here illegally.

The orders and other immigration-enforcement actions have shaken up K-12 education, leaving educators scrambling to assure frightened refugee and immigrant students that their schools should be safe places.

“Immigrant families have reacted by going into hiding, sending their kids to school with other families so they’re not singled out, or keeping them out of school,” immigrant advocacy groups told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in a recent story.

As outlined in a 2011 Department of Human Services memo, immigration agents are to avoid taking undocumented people from sensitive locations such as schools, churches, and hospitals.

But recent immigration enforcement has stoked fears, leaving some to reason that rules established during the Obama administration may no longer apply during the Trump presidency.

Earlier this month, ICE agents arrested an undocumented father who was taking one of his daughters to school; he was fewer than six blocks from the school.

Amid the crackdown, school districts, immigrant advocates, and state education agencies from California to New York have issued legal guidance to remind families of their rights and schools of their responsibilities to educate all students regardless of their national origin.

Broward County is among the first districts in Florida to pass a so-called “safe space” resolution.

For Further Reading

How Much Can Schools Protect Undocumented Students?

Trump Orders on Immigration Rattle Some Educators

As Trump Weighs Fate of Immigrant Students, Schools Ponder Their Roles

Trump’s Anti-Immigration Rhetoric Fuels Data Concerns

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.