Schools and teachers are often viewed as trusted resources by immigrant families. As a result, having a basic understanding of immigration topics is helpful to administrators and teachers alike.
We know that fear runs deep in the undocumented population these days. Accordingly, a school district that understands what their students are experiencing can offer some reasonable direction. Families are always better served being educated about their rights and, as needed, prepared for immigration action; school districts and their teachers and administrators can play a vital role.
According to a March 2017 Washington Post article: “Millions of U.S. children face growing uncertainty at home because of shifts in immigration policy. The Pew Research Center estimates 3.9 million schoolchildren had an unauthorized immigrant parent in 2014 — or 7.3 percent of all schoolchildren. About 725,000 of those children were unauthorized immigrants themselves.”
In September 2017, Rhode Island’s Department of Education (RIDE) issued its “Guidance for Districts and Schools Legal Responsibilities in Regard to Students and Immigration” which is a great resource for teachers and administrators. This guidance suggests that each school district develop specific policies on dealing with requests or visits by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Across the nation, some districts have declared themselves to be sanctuary school districts. At least for now, this seems unnecessary because ICE follows its own “Sensitive Location” policy and does not enter any type of school for routine immigration enforcement action. As with every rule, there is an exception. If exigent circumstances exist, — such as an enforcement action involving national security or terrorism, imminent risk of death-violence-harm, or other imminent danger to public safety — ICE could demand access to a building or records under a warrant. Schools need to be ready and have procedures in place for how to respond.
Finally, RIDE is not only asking that districts comply with laws, but also asking all districts to ensure students feel welcome in school. It can be a simple as having a banner in the foyer in various languages saying “welcome students and families.”
Our attorneys are frequent presenters on immigration scenarios and immigration laws as part of the BRCSM education law team. To learn more about how your district can function as a resource for immigration families, please contact Ben Scungio here.