Schools warn of increased student fears due to immigration arrests, Trump election

The schools chief in Prince George’s County recently warned educators that more students might be absent from class or struggle with increased fear amid what some see as stepped-up federal enforcement actions against immigrants.

Kevin Maxwell wrote that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have been increasingly aggressive in their arrests of those facing deportation in Maryland, based on information from the public defender’s office. He gave principals and staff advice about talking to worried families and highlighted details about federal policy.

“The most important action you and your staff can take is reiterate that Prince George’s County Public Schools will continue to be safe places where students and families will be welcome without fear of harm,” he wrote in boldface type in the Dec. 7 letter.

Maxwell’s message came amid growing efforts by school districts to reassure immigrant communities ahead of President-elect Donald Trump taking office in January. Many are scared that Trump — who put illegal immigration at the center of his campaign — will ramp up deportation efforts, already significant during the Obama administration.

Educators want to be sure that one thing is clear: In schools, immigration status is not an issue. Many school districts have reaffirmed that all children in the United States have a right to a public education.

The District’s interim chancellor, John Davis, recently posted a message that addressed concerns about immigration status. In Minneapolis, the school board recently voted to declare the school district a safe haven for all. The Los Angeles school board also affirmed its policy to keep ICE agents off school campuses unless the superintendent and district lawyers consent.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently reminded administrators in each of Virginia’s 132 school districts that they cannot deny enrollment to undocumented students or allow immigration enforcement action on school grounds.

By Donna St. George for The Washington Post
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