On Thursday, an United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agent showed up to Public School 58 – an elementary school in Queens – to inquire about a fourth-grade student. School officials turned away the officer who reportedly didn’t have a warrant, according to Mic. Though the law obligates school officials to block immigration agents from entering learning institutions if he or she doesn’t have permission from a judge, the incident has sent shockwaves throughout the country.
Details of the child’s status – or that of his parents – aren’t clear. And though it wasn’t an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who headed to the school – as some have tweeted or reported – this incident is likely to instill fear in the undocumented community. the city of New York moved to officially protect students in March as a response to the Trump Administration. At the time, the city noted that immigration officials entering schools was unheard of, according to the New York Daily News, but that it wanted to give parents and students peace of mind.
“We want to be very clear to parents that we’re not allowing ICE agents in the building, because I think parents are so afraid right now,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the time. “I know it sounds outlandish, but we’re seeing things that we have not seen before, and there’s a tremendous amount of fear out there… We have to be ready for anything.”
While details of what went down at PS58 aren’t entirely clear, NYC’s Immigration Affairs commissioner is now looking into the incident. A spokesperson for the USCIS told CBS2 that the visit was “part of an administrative inquiry pertaining to an immigration benefit request… I must emphasize that the purpose of the visit was to verify certain facts about the student’s enrollment in relation to a request for an immigration benefit. At no time did the officers ask to see or speak with the student, who was not the subject of the administrative inquiry.”
But as the fear of deportation puts additional stress on families across the United States, immigration officers should be kept from schools. President Donald Trump’s January 25 executive order – which gives ICE permission to deport a larger number of undocumented immigrants, even those without criminal records – has struck fear in this community. It’s already keeping undocumented immigrants away from doctor’s offices, from reporting crimes to law enforcement, and from church.
It’s also trickled down to schools and it’s taking a toll on students. As Ginette Arguello, a counselor with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans told The Atlantic that on top of absences, “They’re having recurring nightmares or eating too much or too little. One child simply told me ‘My body aches.’” With all of this is going on in the lives of students, the last thing they need – especially at 9 or 10 years old – is a visit from an immigration official at school.