With a federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants spreading fear among New York City’s immigrant communities, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on March 21 that schools will bar entry to immigration agents unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
De Blasio announced the policy as part of an expansion of immigrant guidance and supports for public schools and families. “The urgency we all feel is because the policies emanating from Washington violate our values,” he said at a press conference. “Our school system has a particular responsibility not only to educate our children, but to protect them.”
Addressing immigrant parents, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, herself a child of immigrants, said “the best place to send your children on a day-to-day basis is school.”
While stressing that no immigration agent has tried to enter a city school to date, De Blasio detailed the new DOE protocol for handling such an incident. Effective immediately, school safety agents will not allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to enter a school building unless they have a signed warrant. In the case of a warrant, federal agents will be required to wait outside the school building while school staffers consult with city lawyers.
The Department of Education, which does not track students’ immigration status, will not share any student information with immigration agents unless required to by law, the mayor said.
The city is also holding workshops at schools across the city to teach students, parents and staff about the rights of immigrant New Yorkers. The training sessions, which will take place before, during and after school hours, also will provide information on city services, safety planning and fraud prevention. In addition, the workshops will connect participants to legal services.
“Teachers and the rest of the school community will work together to ensure that children’s rights are protected,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
The mayor’s announcement came as part of a nationwide Day of Immigration Action in which 60 cities unveiled similar policies for their school systems.
Rocío Espada, a Bushwick parent of four children in New York City public schools, said it is “so important for me and my community to be able to send students to school without fear” of having “families torn apart.”