‘Your child is safe’: Schools address deportation fears among immigrant families

The schools superintendent in Harrisonburg, Va., was meeting parents this month when a mother broke down in tears, explaining that she was undocumented. What would the school do, she asked, if she became separated from her children?

“I remember walking up to her and putting my arm on her shoulder and saying, ‘Your child is safe at our school,’ ” said Scott Kizner, the city schools chief. But he also advised those at the meeting in the Shenandoah Valley that any parents worried about deportation “need to make plans.”

Across the country, President Trump’s promise to crack down on illegal immigration is leading schools with large immigrant communities to consider how to care for children whose parents could be detained in federal raids. Parents, teachers and administrators have raised questions about how schools should respond if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents come to a school to take away students or obtain records — even though the agency’s policy restricts enforcement actions on school grounds.

Officials in Sacramento, Denver, Chicago and Miami have declared their schools havens, out of reach of ICE agents without special permission or a warrant.

The Los Angeles school board voted days after the November election to resist any Trump administration attempts to use student data against students or families in immigration matters. A Wisconsin school district sent information home advising parents to keep their doors shut, stay silent and refuse to sign anything if ICE agents visit their home.

In Virginia, the state schools chief urged local superintendents this month to ensure schools have current emergency contact information for parents and to prepare for situations in which children are stranded at school.

By Moriah Balingit and Emma Brown for The Washington Post
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